- The period following the death of Aurangzeb in 1707 saw growing factionalism in the nobility, the rapid decline in the power and prestige of the Mughal Emperor and the Imperial Centre, the further accentuation of the jagirdari crisis, and the rise of regional states which were either breakaway provinces, or rose in defiance of the Mughal state but were prepared to pay token allegiance to the Mughal Emperor.
- The Marathas sweeping out of Maharashtra, set up a series of regional states, and made a bid for all-India supremacy which climaxed at the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761.
- The invasions of Nadir Shah and of Ahmad Shah Durrani opened the north-west for foreign invasions. After the death of Muhammad Shah in 1748, the Mughal Emperor shrank to a shadow, though nominal allegiance continued to be paid to him.
Bahadur Shah I, and the beginning of the struggle for Wizarat (1707-12):
- The death of Aurangzeb at Ahmadnagar in the south led to the inevitable civil war among his sons. The main contestants were considered to be the eldest son, Muazzam, entitled Shah Alam, and his younger brother, Prince Azam. The youngest, Kam Bakhsh, though the favourite of Aurangzeb in his old age, was not considered a serious rival.
- The imprisonment of Shah Alam in 1687 on a charge of conspiring with the Deccan states, his release in 1695 and virtual banishment to Jamrud near Peshawar as Governor of Kabul to watch over the movements of the rebel Prince Akbar who had taken shelter at the Persian Court, cleared the way for Prince Azam to emerge as the natural successor to the throne.
- In preparation of the impending conflict Azam tried to win over to his side the leading nobles. But he was arrogant, and hot and hasty in behaviour. He had the greatest contempt for Shah Alam whom he called a baqqal or a grain-dealer in derision.
- However, despite his meek attitude and colourless behaviour, Shah Alam, by constant marching, had disciplined his soldiers, and with the help of his man-of-affairs, Munim Khan, collected boats etc. for crossing the rivers for a rapid march to Agra when the need arose. Apart from Kabul and Lahore which were under his charge, one of Shah Alam’s son was governor of Multan, and another of Bengal. Thus, Shah Alam had considerable resources at his disposal, and his way to Agra which contained the hoarded treasurers of Shah Jahan was more open and shorter than the road Prince Azam had to travel from the south.
- Thus, the advantages which Prince Azam enjoyed by virtue of the support of the most powerful nobles in the empire, and the veterans of the Deccan and the royal artillery were more apparent than real. He was also harassed by lack of money, many of the soldiers being in arrears of salary for three years.For their own reasons, many of the powerful nobles, such as Muhammad Amin Khan Chin and Ghaziuddin Khan refused to accompany him to Agra for the civil war.
- When Azam reached Gwaliyar, he learnt that Shah Alam had already occupied Agra. Azam had left most of his artillery behind in the Deccan in order to hasten his movement. Faced with a larger and better equipped army, Azam’s fight with Shah Alam at Jaju (June 1707) near Agra was in the nature of a gamble which failed.
- Shortly after his accession at Agra, Bahadur Shah marched to the Deccan via Rajasthan and easily defeated Kam Bakhsh near Hyderabad in January 1709.
- He then returned to North India and for the next year and a half, till his death early in 1712, he was busy dealing with the rebellion of the Sikhs led by Banda Bahadur.
- During Bahadur Shah’s brief reign of five years, although the empire remained united, factionalism in the nobility reached a new height. On this account, and due to Bahadur Shah’s inability to formulate a clear policy, multiple foci of power and policy emerged, further weakening Imperial authority.
- From the beginning, Bahadur Shah faced two major problems -the political and religious issues bequeathed to him by Aurangzeb, and the growing factionalism within the nobility which had acquired certain new features during the latter years of Aurangzeb’s reign.
- During the latter years of Aurangzeb’s reign, two groups of nobles had come to the forefront. The first of these was headed by Asad Khan who came from a well-known family of Iran. Asad Khan, a favourite of Shah Jahan and then of Aurangzeb, married the daughter of Asaf Khan, brother of Nur Jahan. In 1669, at the young age of 46, he was appointed naib wazir, following the death of the wazir, Jafar Khan. No one was appointed as wazir till, in 1676, he was formally appointed wazir, to the consternation of many of the nobles senior to him. Asad Khan continued to hold the post of wazir till 1707 – one of the longest spell of office of any wazir. Aurangzeb had a very high regard for his capabilities.He combined administrative skill with military capabilities, leading large armies and taking active part in siege operations. He held the rank of 7000 / 7000 since 1687.
- Asad Khan’s son, Zulfiqar Khan, was married to the daughter of Amirul Umara, Shaista Khan, who was the maternal uncle of Emperor Aurangzeb. Getting his first mansab in 1660 at the age of eleven, he gradually advanced, making his mark in 1689 by the capture of the powerful fort of Rajgarh in which the treasure and families of Sambhaji had been lodged. The following year he was placed in charge of the campaign against Jinji to which Rajaram had escaped. In 1702 he was made the Mir Bakshi. The combination of the two most powerful posts of wazir and Mir Bakshi in the hands of one family was unusual, and needs explanation. Aurangzeb had a poor opinion of his sons, frequently upbraiding them for their acts of omission and commission. Thus, in a letter to Azam he had accused him of being too bitter (“too salty”) to be palatable to his subjects, and Shah Alam to be colourless (lit. “saltless”). Perhaps, Aurangzeb hoped that whichever of his son succeeded, he would be guided by and would rely on Asad Khan and Zulfiqar Khan. Thus, in his will he recommended that whichever son succeeded to the throne should retain Asad Khan as the wazir.
- Such a concept of sharing power between the monrch and the wazir was fraught with danger. However, it was a new measure which could have worked in some circumstances. That Aurangzeb was serious in this attempt is indicated by the fact that on more than one occasion, he had used Asad and Zulfiqar Khan for trying to work out a settlement of the intractable Maratha problem.
- Thus, in 1706, Shahu was transferred to Zulfiqar Khan’s army for the purpose of negotiating a settlement with the Marathas. Zulfiqar Khan wrote conciliatory letters to the Marathas inviting them to join Shahu, but the Maratha sardars were too suspicious. Earlier, Zulfiqar had suggested a settlement with Rajaram at Jijnji.
- Zulfiqar was trying to cultivate the Marathas because he had the ambition of carving out a separate area of power for himself in the Deccan. Such an ambition was, apparently, also nursed by the “Chin” group.The “Chin” group was led by Ghaziuddin Khan Firuz Jang and included his son Chin Qulich Khan (later Nizam-ul-Mulk) and his cousin, Muhammad Amin Khan Chin and other relations. The family traced its descent from the famous saint of Bukhara, Shaikh Shihabuddin Suhrawardi. Ghaziuddin Khan had earned his spurs in the Marwar War. He was given the main credit for the capture of Bijapur in 1687, and rewarded by his mansab being raised to 7000 / 7000. Though he was blinded in an epidemic plague the same year, he continued to hold important positions. Thus, from 1695 he was governor of Berar. He entertained mainly Turanis as soldiers, and kept a strong part of artillery, far beyond the requirements. Aurangzeb inspected his artillery in 1707 and confiscated much of it.
- Chin Qulich Khan had become a favourite of Aurangzeb after his role in the capture of Wakinkhera in 1706. Muhammad Amin Khan Chin was the sadr.This family, though known for its orthodoxy and high in Imperial favour, appears to have felt outclassed by the family of Asad Khan in any future set up, and hence had began toying with the idea of having its own sphere of influence.
- Thus, after the death of Aurangzeb, the “Chin” group showed great reluctance in leaving the Deccan in order to take part in the civil war. Although Azam tried to conciliate this powerful group by raising the mansab of Chin Qulich Khan to 7000 / 7000, and that of Muhammad Amin Khan to 6000 / 6000, Chin Qulich Khan, who had also been made governor of Khandesh, did not proceed beyond Aurangabad, and left on the pretext of looking after his charge. Muhammad Amin, too, deserted, and repaired to Aurangabad where he and Chin Qulich took possession of several districts.
- Ghaziuddin Khan Firuz Jang, too, remained at Daulatabad and made no move to join Azam. Thinking it better to leave Firuz Jang behind as a friend rather than a foe, Azam made Firuz Jang governor of Aurangabad and Viceroy of the Deccan.
- The struggle among the nobles came to the surface as soon as Bahadur Shah was proclaimed King at Agra. Bahadur Shah had wisely adopted the policy that all those nobles who had supported Azam would be restored to their mansabs and positions if they came and submitted to him immediately. This gave him the services of many experienced Alamgiri nobles, and also helped to undercut the support of his remaining rival, Kam Bakhsh.
- As soon as Asad Khan and Zulfiqar Khan came and submitted, Asad Khan, in view of Aurangzeb’s recommendation in his will, as well as his connections, experience etc. asked for the post of wazir for himself, and that of Mir Bakhshi for Zulfiqar Khan. Bahadur Shah had no difficulty in appointing Zulfiqar Khan as Mir Bakhshi along with his old mansab of 6000 / 6000, but he had promised the post of wazir to his friend and supporter, Munim Khan. Ultimately, a solution was found. Munim Khan was appointed wazir, his rank of 1500 being raised to 7000 / 7000. He was also appointed (absentee) governor of Lahore. Thus, the days of Akbar when the wazir was primarily a financial expert, with many nobles out-ranking him in his mansab, no longer prevailed. The wazir was now seen as the leading noble. Asad Khan was made wakil-i-mutlaq with the rank of 8000/ 8000, the title of Asaf-ud-Daulah and the right to see all papers of appointments, promotions etc. and reports from the provinces. Munim Khan found this to be tedious and humiliating, and soon an excuse was found to post Asad Khan to Delhi. Zulfiqar Khan was made his father’s (Asad Khan)deputy.
- Chin Qulich and Muhammad Amin Khan were also recalled from the Deccan. They were given small positions which did not satisfy them. Hence, after some time, Chin Qulich resigned his mansab and title of Khan-i-Dauran, and led a retired life at Delhi, waiting better opportunities.
- Ghaziuddin Khan was appointed governor of Gujarat, and asked to take charge without coming first to court as was the custom. His death at Ahmedabad in 1710 further weakened the position of this group. Thus, the main struggle remained one between Zulfiqar Khan and Munim Khan, with the “Chin” g roup on the margin.
There are two phases in Bahadur Shah’s Rajput policy – the earlier phase till 1709 when he not only tried
to maintain Aurangzeb’s settlement with the Rajputs, but to go further. On the excuse that Ajit Singh
had neither attended the court, nor sent a customary letter of congratulations on his accession, and that
he had occupied Jodhpur and was opposing practice of Islam there and restoring temples, Bahadur Shah
decided to move to the Deccan via Ajmer. When the Imperial army reached near Ajmer, the Rana
offered his submission which was accepted. Ajit Singh also applied for pardon, which was accepted after
Ajit Singh had suffered a defeat at the hands of Mihrab Khan, the
faujdar-designatre of Jodhpur. Ajit Singh was restored to his previous mansab of 3500 / 3000, and the
title of Maharaja, but his capital Jodhpur, remained under imperial control. Earlier, on the ground that
there was a dispute about succession between Jai Singh and his brother, Vijay Singh, the latter having
helped Bahadur Shah at Jaju, Bahadur Shah had instructed the subedar of Ajmer to bring the state of
Amber under khalisa and appoint a Mughal faujdar there. On reaching Amber, Bahadur Shah stayed
there for three days, and renamed the city Islamabad. The property of Jai Singh was confiscated, and the
state was entrusted to Vijai Singh, with an imperial faujdar remaining at Amber.
Bahadur Shah and his wazir, Munim Khan, soon found that they were not capable of upholding these
policies. When the imperial camp reached Mahabaleshwar on the Narmada, Ajit Singh and Jai Singh,
who had accompanied the imperial camp in the, hope of the reversal of the earlier orders, escaped and
repaired to Udaipur where they made an agreement with the Maharana for joint resistance against the
Mughals.-However, in practice, there was little coordination among the Rajputs. Jai Singh recovered
Amber, and Ajit Singh ousted the Mughal faujdar from Jodhpur. The Maharana recovered the parganas
of Pur, Mandal, and Bidnur sequestered by Aurangzeb in lieu of jizyah. The Rajputs over-ran Didwana,
and gained a notable victory over Saiyid Husain Khan Baraha, the faujdar of Sambhar, when he was
accidently killed in the course of the battle. After the rainy season, Ajit Singh invested Ajmer with a force
of 20,000 but received no help from Jai Singh and the Maharana. He raised the siege on a payment of
Rs.80,000/- from the governor, Shujaat Khan, though the latter sent a lying report to Bahadur Shah
claiming a victory.
Meanwhile, news about the victory of Bahadur Shah over Kam Bakhsh, and his returning to North India,
resolved to lead an army to punish and chastise the Rajputs became current. In alarm, the Rajputs
sought the mediation of their old friends, Asad Khan and Prince Azim-ush-Shan. At their instance, Jai
Singh and Ajit Singh were restored to their mansabs. Asad Khan who had been placed in over-all charge
of Lahore, Delhi and Ajmer subahs, offered to the Rajas sanads for the grant of their homelands,
provided they raised their thanas from Sambhar and
Didwana, and accepted appointments to the provinces of Kabul and Gujarat.
There was thus a sharp difference of opinion about the Rajputs between Bahadur Shah and Munim Khan
on the one hand, and Asad Khan and Zulfiqar Khan on the other. The latter wanted to conciliate the
Rajput rajas by not only returning their homelands, but readmitting them to the position of being
partners in the kingdom by assigning them high administrative positions. On return to North India,
Bahadur Shah and Munim Khan made a typical compromise. In June, 1710, Ajit Singh and Jai Singh were
granted audience “during the march”, i.e. not in a regular court, and their homelands, Jodhpur and
Amber, restored. They were permitted to go home provided they came with a force within six months to
serve wherever asked to do so. Since news of the uprising of Banda Bahadur had already reached
Bahadur Shah, he was anxious to use the Rajputs in the campaign against him. As a sweetner, Munim
Khan revived Asad Khan’s proposal of appointing the Rajas to Gujarat and Kabul an idea which the
Rajputs construed as a devise to separate them, and deal with them individually.
After considerable pressure, and after a lapse of fifteen months, Ajit Singh and Jai Singh appeared at
Bahadur Shah’s court in October 1711, and were appointed to Sadhaura to guard the foot-hills from the
raids of Banda’s followers. By this time Munim Khan had died, and all power had passed into the hands
of Prince Azim-ush-Shan. Although Azim-ush-Shan had been a friend of the Rajputs, he had broken with
Zulfiqar Khan, and was anxious to win over the old Alamgiri nobles to his side in preparation for the
inevitable civil war. The Alamgiri nobles, apparently, were not in favour of a compromising policy
towards the Rajputs. The contemporary writer, Mirza Muhammad Harisi, representing their point of
view, called the earlier agreement with the Rajputs as “being inconsistent with good policy as well as the
dignity of the sovereign.” This, it seems, was the reason why after serving for two and a half months
with “a large army”, Jai Singh was appointed faujdarof Chitrakut, and Ajit Singh of Sorath in Gujarat.
These were far below the expectations of the Rajput rajas, and they petitioned for leave to go home.
This was agreed to provided they left chaukis (outposts) behind.
The Marathas and the Deccan
The reign of Bahadur Shah not only saw the emergence of sharp
difference of opinion regarding the policy to be followed towards the Rajputs but also towards the
Marathas and the Deccan. When Azam Shah was proceeding towards North India, at Dauraha near the
Narmada, Shahu was allowed to escape along with about 50 – 60 of his followers. There was both policy
and calculation in this. Shahu’s release, it was felt, would weaken Tara Bai and safeguard the Mughal
possessions from Maratha incursions during Azam’s absence while the Marathas fought among
themselves. Also, Shahu was considered the rightful successor of Sambhaji and the one with whom
some agreement could be arrived at. According to the contemporary historian, Khafi Khan, the release
of Shahu was done at the instance of Zulfiqar Khan “who was very intimate with Shahu and had for long
been interested in his affairs.” However, there is no support for the contention put forwards by some
Maratha sources that Azam Shah had made an agreement with Shahu, granting him Shivaji’s swarajya,
the chauth and sardeshmukhi of the six subahs of the Deccan, and other concessions.
After defeating Tara Bai in a battle, and crowning himself at Satara, Shahu tried to strengthen himself by
securing from the Mughal due confirmation of his position, and the grant of chauth and sardeshmukhi of
the Deccan. Shortly after Bahadur Shah’s accession, Shahu had sent him a letter of congratulations and
asked for forgiveness of his “sins”. In return, he was restored to his mansab of 7000 / 7000, and asked to
render military help against Kam Bakhsh. Shahu expressed his inability to attend in person, but sent one
of his best known sardars, Nimaji Sindhia, with a large force to join Bahadur Shah, which did good
After the defeat of Kam Bakhsh (January 1909), Bahadur Shah offered the post of Viceroy of the Deccan
to his soa Prince Azim-ush-Shan who was gradually gaining favour with him. But Azim-ush-Shan
preferred the (absentee) governorship of the Eastern provinces, Bengal, Bihar and Orissa which had
been under his charge earlier. Unlike the Deccan these areas were peaceful and productive. The
viceroyalty of the Deccan was then offered to the next most powerful person, Zulfiqar Khan. We are told
that Zulfiqar Khan was granted full authority in all the revenue and administrative matters pertaining to
the Deccan, and allowed to remain at the court to combine his new post with his previous post of Mir
Bakhshi. His old associate and protege, Daud Khan Panni, was made his deputy in the Deccan,
with the rank of 7000 / 5000 du-aspa-sih-aspa, and the governorships of Bijapur, Berar and Aurangabad.
His headquarters were fixed at Aurangabad, near Daultabad in the old Nizam Shahi kingdom of
These concessions which made Zulfiqar Khan’s position far stronger than that of the wazir, Munim Khan,
would have made sense if Bahadur Shah was also prepared to be guided by Zulfiqar Khan regarding the
political affairs of the Deccan which he knew intimately. However, Bahadur Shah was reluctant to
strengthen Zulfiar Khan’s position any further. After the victory over Kam Bakhsh, Zulfiqar Khan
introduced Shahu’s wakil to the emperor. He presented an application for the grant of chauth and
sardeshmukhi of the six subahs of the Deccan on condition of restoring prosperity to the ruined land.
Munim Khan presented Tara Bai’s wakil who requested for a farman in the name of her (minor) son,
Shivaji II. She asked only for sardeshmukhi of the Deccan, without any reference to chauth, and also
offered to suppress other insurgents and to restore order in the country.
A great contention on the matter arose between Munim Khan and Zulfiqar Khan. Matters worsened
because Munim Khan wanted to detach Khandesh and Pain-Ghat in Berar from the Deccan, create a
separate subah out of them, and appoint his son, Mahabat Khan, as its governor with full powers of
appointment, dismissal and transfer of officials. Unwilling to displease either, Bahadur Shah did not
approve the idea of the partitioning of the Deccan, and ordered that sanad for sardeshmukhi only be
given in accordance with the requests of both Munim Khan and Zulfikar Khan.
Whatever the motives of Bahadur Shah, his decision was an invitation to both Shahu and Tara Bai to
plunder the imperial territories to enforce their claims. As soon as Bahadur Shah left the Deccan, Shahu
came out of fort Rajgarh, and issued an order to his sardars: “The Emperor has granted me (sar)
deshmukhi of these parts, but not yet the chauth. You should, therefore, raid the imperial territories and
create disorder (till he agrees to do so).” Soon, bands of Marathas invaded and plundered Burhanpur in
Khandesh and defeated and killed the governor, Mir Ahmad Khan. They also invaded Bijapur and
Ahmadnagar, appeared near Aurangabad and plundered the surrounding area. The Mughals were
powerless to check these inroads, though Daud Khan Panni moved about with a large army chasing the
Marathas. He also tried to sow dissensions among the Marathas, winning over to his side a number of
powerful Maratha sardars, such as Rao Rambha Nimbalkar, Paima Raj Sindhia and even Chandrasen
Jadhav. But the Maratha raids continued.
Ultimately, early in 1711, Daud Khan made a pact with Shahu. According to this pact, the chauth and
sardeshmukhi was promised to Shahu. But the amounts were to be collected not by Maratha agents, but
by Daud Khan’s deputy, Hiraman, who would pay the Marathas a lump sum. The jagirs of the princes
were to be exempt from any charge.
No written confirmation of the grant was given but the agreement could hardly have been made
without the active support of Zulfiqar Khan, and the tacit consent of the Emperor. This was easier since
Munim Khan had died by then.
Even this pact could not secure peace since the Maratha sardars had by now become free agents, not
answerable to anyone and eager to plunder on their own. However the scale of Maratha attacks
Accentuation of the Party Conflict
The Sikh uprising which began towards the end of 1708 under Banda Bahadur, beginning with the defeat
of the faujdars of Sonepat and Sirhind, and the establishment of virtual Sikh control “from a few days
march from Delhi to the outskirts of Lahore”, kept Bahadur Shah busy from the middle of 1710 to his
death at Lahore in February, 1712. Banda was besieged at Lohgarh, but managed to escape to the hills
when the fort was stormed towards the end of the year. Mughal operation slackened thereafter.
Bahadur Shah returned to Lahore and left it to the nobles to conduct operations against Banda.
In February, 1711, Munim Khan died after a short illness. His death had been hastened by Bahadur
Shah’s charges of negligence in the escape of Banda from Lohgarh. Zulfiqar Khan now resumed the
demand for wizarat. Prince Azim-ush-Shan who was close to Bahadur Shah was prepared to
accommodate Zulfiqar Khan, provided he relinquished the posts of Mir Bakhshi and Viceroy of the
Deccan, which he proposed, should be given to the sons of Munim Khan. Bahadur Shah did not like the
proposal because he did not consider the sons of Munim Khan to be competent for the posts. Zulfiqar
Khan, too, stoutly opposed the proposal because he was not prepared to relinquish
the posts of Mir Bakhshi and Viceroy of the Deccan. Hence, he proposed that the post of wazir should be
given to Asad Khan. Bahadur Shah and Prince Azim-ush-Shan felt that the combination of the posts of
wazir, Mir Bakhshi and Viceroy of the Deccan in the hands of one family would be dangerous for the
dynasty. Ultimately, no wazir was appointed. Sadullah Khan was made the chief diwan, and asked to
work under the “supervision and control of Prince Azim-ush-Shan” (Khafi Khan).
Thus, the most energetic and capable prince and the most powerful and ambitious noble whose
objective was the concentration of all power in his hands to reshape imperial policies were put on a
Bahadur Shah made a cautious departure from Aurangzeb’s policies. While ban on wine drinking and
singing and dancing in open court was continued, Bahadur Shah hardly shared Aurangzeb’s orthodox
views. Like his wazir, Munim Khan, he was a liberal sufi in outlook, and incurred the displeasure of the
orthodox elements by assuming the title “Saiyid”. Claiming to be a mujtahid or interpreter of Holy Laws,
Bahadur Shah ordered at Lahore that the word “wasi” or successor be inserted after the name of Ali in
the Friday prayers. This outraged the Sunni elements since it placed Ali in a higher position than the
other three Caliphs, and led to widespread rioting. The order had to be withdrawn, but from this time
onwards, there was a definite breach between the orthodox elements and the Mughal emperor.
Struggle for “New Wizarat”: Zulfiqar Khan & Jahandar Shah (1712-13)
The civil war among the sons of Bahadur Shah following his death was, in essence, a struggle between
Azim-ush-Shan, the most energetic prince with the largest resources, and the most powerful noble,
Zulfiqar Khan. In order to counter Azim-ush-Shan, Zulfiqar had brought the other three princes into a
pact according to which the empire was to be divided among them, but sikka and khutba would remain
in the name of the eldest, Jahandar Shah. Zulfiqar would be the common w azir who would reside at the
court of Jahandar Shah, with deputies at the courts of the others. The idea of a partitioning the empire is
supposed to have been bequeathed by Aurangzeb, and Bahadur Shah had professed to abide by it
before the Battle of Jaju, as also before
the tussle with Kam Bakhsh. But the idea never seems to have been entertained seriously by anybody.
After the defeat of Azim-ush-Shan, which was due to the efforts and energy of Zulfiqar Khan, the latter
lost no time in defeating the other two brothers, Rafi-ush-Shan and Jahan Shah.
After the accession of Jahandar Shah at Lahore, Zulfiqar Khan became wazir almost as a matter of right.
He also retained the Viceroyalty of the Deccan which he continued to govern through his deputy, Daud
Khan. He was granted the unprecedented rank of 10,000 / 10,000 du-aspa sih-aspa and the tietle of yarwafadar (faithful friend.). His father, Asad Khan, remained Wakil-i-Mutlaq, and was granted the
(absentee) governorship of Gujarat, and the mansab of 12,0 00/12,000. Although Jahandar called him
“uncle” out of respect, Asad Khan refrained from taking interest in public affairs, and seldom went to the
court. Thus, all power remained in the hands of Zulfiqar Khan, and Jahandar Shah was guided by his
Zulfiqar Khan utilised his powers and position to institute a broad liberal, inclusionist policy. First and
foremost, only nine days after the formal accession of Jahandar Shah, and at the suggestion of Asad
Khan, jizyah was abolished. Although jizyah had been suspended in the Deccan by Aurangzeb in 1704 for
the duration of the war, and had generally fallen in disuse, it was asserted on occasions under Bahadur
Shah. Thus, jizyah was levied in Jodhpur after Ajit Singh had been forced to abandon it. Zulfiqar Khan’s
step was obviously designed to win general Hindu opinion to his side.
Next, Jai Singh and Ajit Singh were raised to the ranks of 7000/7000, and granted the titles of Mirza Raja
Sawai and Maharaja respectively. Soon afterwards, Jai Singh was granted the subedari of Malwa and Ajit
Singh of Gujarat, along with other concessions. These cannot be considered paper appointments. Ajit
Singh had just started for Gujarat when he received news that the rebellion in the East by Farrukh Siyar,
son of Azim-ush-Shan, had reached serious proportion. Hence, he put off his deprture.
In the case of the Marathas, the earlier accord made by Daud Khan was continued. A new step taken by
Zulfiqar Khan was the grant of an imperial mansab of 3000/2000 to Shivaji II, son of Raja Ram. A khilat
and a farman granting him the (sar) deshmukhi of subah Hyderabad was also sent to him. Thus, Zulfiqar
postulated a division of the swarajya of Shivaji, and the chauth and sardeshmukhi of the Deccan
between Shahu and Shivaji II.
The major problem facing Zulfiqar Khan, however, was the growing crisis of the jagirdari system, and his
relations with the nobles as also those considered close to the young Emperor. The jagirdari crisis had
worsened under Bahadur Shah due to his reckless grant of mansabs and inams. According to the
contemporary, Bhimsen, even clerks had received high mansabs. To check the Emperor’s excessive
liberality, with the support of Munim Khan, an official, Mustaid Khan, was appointed to examine the
suitability of new appointees as well as the promotions. He was also to examine the grants given for the
support of holy and learned men. This led to inordinate delays and seems to have been resented by the
khanazads who had been waiting for a long time for the lifting of Aurangzeb’s ban on new
appointments. It seems that they approached two of the queens who put great pressure on Mustaid
Khan. The Emperor told the officials that his signature was a formality, and the Arz Muqarrar or the
official incharge of confirmation of jagirs could do as he liked. In consequence, the imperial signature
lost its value and jagir continued to be awarded liberally.
Another reform measure adopted at the time was to defer the charge for the upkeep of the royal
transport or khurak dawwab. It was now to be deducted from the assigned salary of a mansabdar after a
jagir had been granted to him. This saved the nobles from much harrasement and, in the words of Khafi
Khan, meant that “the charge for the maintenance of animals was remitted.” But this implied additional
strain on the Imperial khalisa. An idea of the acute financial situation which forced Bahadur Shah may be
guaged from the remark of agent Chabela Das, in 1711 during the Sikh uprising “battles are fought with
the army and provisions of the army requires money, but money is not seen anywhere. Let us see how
God wins.” Khafi Khan says that at the time of the conquest c. Agra fort, Bahadur Shah had found
thirteen crores of coined and uncoined gold and silver. These had been exhausted by the end of his
reign. In consequence, great parsimony was shown in the government establishments, especially the
royal household, so much as that money was received every day from the treasury of Prince Azim -ushShan to keep things going.
This was the situation Zulfiqar Khan inherited, and which
explains the charge of parsimoniousness brought against him by many contemporary writers. We are
told that unlike the earlier tradition, Zulfiqar Khan flatly refused to give any employment to the
supporters of the defeated princes. Thus, two to three thousand old servants were made unemployed.
The properties of some of the leading supporters of these princes were confiscated – a departure from
Bahadur Shah’s policy. One of those who was denied employment, Iradat Khan, charges Zulfiqar Khan
with stinginess and reluctance to give jagirs to others while he appropriated enormous revenues and
emoluments for himself, and of harrasing and plotting to ruin old nobles. Zulfiqar Khan issued an order
that no sanads for jagirs was to be granted to any mansabdar till his claim had been checked and
confirmed. Nor were any increments in ranks to be granted till then. He also attempted to compel the
mansabdars to maintain their stipulated quota of troops, and to enforce regulations regarding muster
and dagh. We do no know to what extent these measures effected the old nobles. However, it was
difficult to maintain economy and enforcement of regulations in an atmosphere of competitiveness.
Soon the rules of Zulfiqar Khan were thrown to the winds and mansabs began to be given to royal
favourites with a free hand.
In matter of revenue administration, Zulfiqar Khan left everything in the hands of his former diwan,
Sabha Chand, a kayastha, who was given the title of Raja and appointed diwan of the crown lands. We
are told that during Jahandar Shah’s time, the old rules of business were thrown to the winds, and ijara
(revenue farming) became universal.
Zulfiqar Khan tried to win over the old Alamgiri and Bahadur Shahi nobles. It was due to his efforts that
many of these nobles continued to hold important posts and positions at the centre as well as in the
provinces. He resisted the elevation of new men considered to be low born, and on more than one
occasion defended the old nobles against the pretensions of the friends and relations of the queen, Lal
Kunwar, who came from a family of kalawants or professional musicians. We are told that it was a fine
time for musicians and ministrals who would swagger round the streets of Delhi in a noisy manner,
making themselves obnoxious to high and low by their high-handedness. On one occasion Zuhra, a
vegetable seller by profession and friend of Lal
Kunwar, insulted Chin Qulich Khan by blocking his way in a narrow street, and calling him “the son of
that blind man”. Whereupon Chin Qulich Khan’s men belaboured Zuhra’s men. Her appeal to Lal Kunwar
for redressal had no effect because the wazir backed Chin Qulich Khan.
At the beginning of Jahandar’s accession, Zulfiqar Khan had contemplated getting rid of his old rival,
Chin Qulich Khan, who had been won over by Azim-ush-Shan, by promises of high office. After the death
of Bahadur Shah, Chin Qulich had recruited an army but had moved only a few stages out of Delhi when
he received news of Azim-ush-Shan’s defeat. Hence, he had dismissed his soldiers and returned to Delhi.
Zulfiqar Khan was dissuaded from proceeding against Chin Qulich by Abdus Samad Khan, a Turani who
was married in the Chin family but had actively helped Zulfiqar Khan in the civil war as Superintendent
of Artillery. He had been made Sadr with the rank of 7000. When Jahandar Shah reached Delhi, Chin
Qulich met him outside the city. Chin Qulich was restored to his mansab of 5000, and was appointed
governor of Malwa. But he remained dissatisfied, and resigned his post and mansab, ostensibly as a
protest against the rise of new nobles and the neglect of the khanazads.
Thus, a powerful section in the old nobility remained dissatisfied, not only because of the neglect of the
old Turani nobles, or khanazads, but because they disliked all power and authority slipping into the
hands of one of them, Zulfiqar Khan.
Two internal centres of opposition to Zulfiqar Khan emerged. One of these consisted of Kokaltash Khan
the Mir Bakhshi, and his relations and friends. Kokaltash Khan, the foster-brother of Jahandar Shah, had
been his main man of affairs for a long time, and been his deputy at Multan with the rank of 2500/2250.
Jahandar Shah had promised him the wizarat should he become the Emperor. Kokaltash bitterly
resented the elevation of Zulfiqar Khan to wizarat, though it was inescapable. Kokaltash was given the
post of Mir Bakhshi, with the mansab of 9000 / 9000, and made governor of Multan and Thatta, along
with the faujdari of Bakkhar. His family members also prospered – one brother being made governor of
Agra with the rank of 8000, and a son-in-law appointed second bakhshi with the rank of 8000/ 8000.
Among the dissatisfied nobles who joined this group, the most important was Sadullah Khan, a Kashmiri,
who had been
used to exclude Zulfiqar Khan from the wizarat after the death of Munim Khan, and now feared his ire.
This group not only began to interfere in administration, but tried to effect a break between Jahandar
Shah and the wazir by suggesting to him that the wazir was too ambitious, and that to fulfil his
ambitions, he would put a new prince on the throne. However, for the time being, this game did not
succeed. In fact, in a dispute between Zulfiqar Khan and Kokaltash Khan regarding the post of Arz
Mukarrar, Jahandar Shah upheld the wazir. On another occasion he told Kokaltash Khan that the wazir
had full authority to do what he liked and that he, the Emperor, could not interfere in anything, or even
utter a word in protest.
The second group consisted of Lal Kunwar, and her relations and friends. Though called a “dancing girl”,
Lal Kunwar was not a concubine. She came from the class of people called kalawant or professional
musicians. Her father, Khasusiyat Khan, was a descendant of Tansen, the famous musician of Akbar.
After being made queen, she was allowed to march with drums beating like the Emperor, and five
hundred gentlemen troopers (ahadis) followed in her train. Coins are said to have been issued in her
name, but none have been found. She was the constant companion of the Emperor, and became
another avenue for those seeking Imperial favour. This was annoying to the wazir who lost perquisites
because every job seeker had to give him a commission and presents. Members of Lal Kunwar’s family
received mansabs, at least three of her brothers receiving mansabs between 5000 to 7000, and jagirs
and sinecures. We are told that due to Lal Kunwar,many kalawants received high mansabs of 5000 to
7000. However, the wazir did not permit any of Lal Kunwar’s brothers to hold posts such as
governorships on the ground that it would lead to discontent among the old nobles. On another
occasion, Khush-hal Khan, a brother of Lal Kunwar, was arrested by the order of the wazir on the charge
of molesting a married woman. His property was confiscated and he was sent to the fortress prison of
Samugurh. Lal Kunwar was powerless to intervene.
Thus, there can be no comparison between Lal Kunwar and Nur Jahan. Lal Kunwar seems to have had no
interest in politics, but had a childish fondness for festivities and illuminations.
Contemporaries who were shocked that a person from a demeaning profession should be raised to the
status of a queen, relate many stories as to how in his infatuation for her, Jahandar violated traditions of
propriety and decorum. Thus, he is accused of going shopping on a “moving throne”; having drunk in a
rath and found asleep in it the following morning – a story which it is hard to credit. However, the
prestige and fear of the Emperor had declined so much that when he went out for a hunt or festivities,
no nobles or army followed him. The breach between the old nobility and Jahandar Shah was the main
reason for his defeat only thirteen months after his accession, by Farrukh Siyar, the second son of Azim ush-Shan, backed by Saiyid Abdullah Khan and Husain Ali Baraha.
On the march from Lahore to Delhi in May 1712, Jahandar Shah heard of the movement of Farrukh Siyar
in the East. Although his attempt was considered to be ridiculous, the eldest son Prince Azzuddin w as
placed at the head of an army, and asked to proceed to Agra to watch the situation. Without consulting
Zulfiqar Khan, the over all control of the army was given to Khan-i-Dauran, the brother-in-law of
Kokaltash Khan. He was totally inexperienced of battle, and according to a contemporary, “had never
even killed a cat.”
During the next six months at Delhi, Jahandar Shah made merry. Hearing of the arrival of Farrukh Siyar
at Allahabad after being joined by the Saiyid Brothers, Prince Azzuddin advanced to Khajwa (near Kora)
but was easily routed. Jahandar Shah now awoke to his danger. The army had not been paid for the last
eleven months, and frantic efforts were made to find money. The zamindars of the area had withheld
money, and all stored money had been exhausted long ago. Hence, vessels of gold and silver stored
since the times of Akbar were broken up and the karkhanas opened up to pay the soldiers. Even the gold
roofs of the palaces were taken down. Thus, the task of vandalism was started by the Mughal princes
long before the Jats, Marathas and Nadir Shah arrived on the scene. In this way, an army of 100,000 and
a strong artillery were collected, and it was decided to move to Agra.
The events were too important for Chin Qulich Khan (the future Nizam-ul-Mulk) to be neglected. At the
instance of Zulfiqar Khan, he was propitiated with a rank of 7000. His cousin, M. Amin Khan,
who had been engaged in fighting desultory battles with Banda Bahadur, was also recalled. These two
powerful nobles were asked to join the army at Agra.
Although Jahandar Shah had a much larger army than Farrukh Siyar’s, divided counsel between Zulfiqar
Khan and Kokaltash Khan, the neutrality of the “Chin” group of Turanai nobles and the intrepidity of the
Saiyid brothers secured a complete victory for Farrukh Siyar (January 1713).
The brief duration of rule by Jahandar Shah and Zulfiqar Khan led to the emergence of a number of
important tendencies. It was shown that in the absence of a masterful ruler with sufficient competence
and capacity, the only alternative was a masterful wazir who had sufficient experience of administration,
could maintain law and order, and keep the nobility under control. But an all-powerful wazir was likely
to arouse the distrust of the king and the envy of the nobility. In such a situation the wazir could
maintain his position only by organising a bloc powerful enough to defeat any rival or combination of
rivals, as also try to secure the support of elements outside the court (Rajputs, Marathas, etc.). This, in
turn, posed a threat to the dynasty. The logical culmination was the establishment of a new dynasty and
a new nobility, as during the Sultanat or the complete subordination of the ruler to the wazir. During
Jahandar Shah’s rule, the situation did not lead up to this, but all the factors for such a development
In the second place, the reign of Jahandar Shah saw the rapid abandonment of the policies associated
with Aurangzeb. Thus, jizyah was abolished, and large concessions given to Rajputs and Marathas. It
would appear that Zulfiqar Khan was keen to revive the liberal traditions of Akbar, and to develop a
state based on the broad support of Muslims and Hindus. This underlined the failure of Aurangzeb’s
attempt to keep the empire together by emphasizing Islam and the Islamic character of the state.
The Saiyid Brothers’ Struggle for New Wizarat
Farrukh Siyar, the second son of Azim-ush-Shan, had been his father’s deputy in Bengal since 1707.
Perhaps in anticipation of a civil war following the death of Bahadur Shah, in 1711, he had been recalled
to the court. He had been at Patna for some months when he heard of the news of Bahadur Shah’s
death, and immediately proclaimed his father, Azim-ush-Shan, as king.
HussainAli Baraha, who had been deputy of Azim-ush-Shan in Bihar since 1708, and had clashed with
Farrukh Siyar on a number of points since his arrival at Patna, did not like the precipitate action of the
prince. When news arrived of the defeat and death of Azim-suh-Shan at Lahore, Husain Ali wanted to
draw back, but was persuaded by the Emperor’s mother not to do so since it would be of lasting infamy
for him. Promises of high office if Farrukh Siyar ascended the throne were also held out. However, the
relations between the two continued to be strained, Husain Ali being distrustful of Farrukh Siyar who
had earned a reputation for low-down cunning as he had earlier captured fort Rohtas by a farman and
assurance of safety to the commandant, but had violated the assurance after he had vacated the fort.
The combined armies of Farrukh Siyar and Husain Ali reached Allahabad by November, 1712 where
Abdullah Khan, the elder brother of Husain Ali, who had been Azim-ush-Shan’s deputy in the province
joined. Abdullah Khan soon became the chief person in the coalition, and used his influence to resolve
the prevailing ill-will between Husain Ali and Farrukh Siyar.
The victory of Farrukh Siyar at Agra (January, 1713) was entirely due to the efforts of the Saiyid Brothers.
Farrukh Siyar had, therefore, little option but to appoint Abdullah Khan as wazir and Husain Ali as Mir
Bakhshi. They were raised to the rank of 7000/7000, and granted governorships of Multan and Bihar
respectively and allowed to govern them through deputies. The maternal uncle of Abdullah Khan, Saiyid
Muzaffar Khan Baraha, was made governor of Ajmer, and a few relations and kinsmen of the Saiyids
admitted to mansabs. Apart from these, the Saiyids did not claim any special positions for their kinsmen.
In fact, they were keen to conciliate and win over old Alamgiri and Bahadur Shahi nobles. At the outset,
a general policy was laid down that all the Alamgiri nobles were to be confirmed in their previous ranks,
and all promotions of 300 and above in the zat rank given by Bahadur Shah were to be scrutinized. Chin
Qulich Khan was accorded the mansab of 7000/7000 and the title of Nizam-ul-Mulk and appointed
viceroy of the Deccan, with powers to select the lands to be allotted in jagir to him and to his followers,
and to suggest the mansabs to be granted to the chief zamindars there, i.e. Marathas and others.
Abdullah Khan used to say that he considered Nizam-ul-Mulk to be his “elder
brother”, and visited him and exchanged costly gifts before he left for the Deccan. Muhammad Amin
Khan, the cousin of Nizam-ul-Mulk, was made second bakhshi with the title of Itimad-ud-Daulah. Abdus
Samad Khan, who had been the chief lieutenant of Zulfiqar Khan in the civil wars at Lahore, was granted
the rank of 7000/7000, and appointed governor of Lahore. However, the efforts of the Saiyids to win the
old nobles to their side were only partially successful. Many of the old nobles were envious of the
Saiyids and looked down upon them as Hindustani upstarts.
The Saiyids also tried to follow a broad, liberal policy. Thus, while Farrukh Siyar was still in Bihar, at the
instance of Husain Ali, jizyah had been abolished. This order was reiterated six days after the defeat of
Jahandar Shah at Agra. Pilgrim tax levived at a number of places was abolished, and restrictions on the
Hindus using palkis and Arabi and Iraqi horses imposed by Aurangzeb and continued by Bahadur Shah,
were eased, and abolished altogether a few years later.
The Saiyids were also keen to conciliate the Rajputs. Thus, at their instance, Rana Sangram Singh II was
accorded a mansab of 7000/7000 with 8 crore dams in inam. Jai Singh and Ajit Singh sent letters of
congratulations to Farrukh Siyar, but avoided coming to pay personal allegience. Through their wakils
they reiterated their old demand for the grant of high mansabs and appointment to the subahs of
Malwa and Gujarat respectively. This was not to be liking of Farrukh Siyar who wanted to teach a lesson
to the Rajputs. He was particularly annoyed with Ajit Singh who had assasinated two sons of Indra Singh
who had been Mughal mansabdars. Jai Singh and Ajit Singh were raised to the rank of 7000/7000 but in
order to disrupt the alliance of the Rajput Rajas, Jai Singh was appointed as governor of Malwa, and Ajit
Singh to Thatta. Although Jai Singh moved towards Malwa, Ajit Singh refused to go to Thatta, and Husain
Ali was asked to lead an expedition against him.
Husain Ali led a large army against Ajit Singh early in January 1714. Meanwhile, relations between the
Saiyids and Farrukh Siyar had deteriorated to the point that Farrukh Siyar sent secret letters to Ajit Singh
promising rewards if he would defeat and kill the Mir Bakhshi. However, these moves were soon known
to Husain Ali who had kept close and cordial relations with the Rajput Rajas. After a few months of
campaigning, in which Husain Ali was assisted by a contingent of 4000 sawars sent by the Rana, a treaty
was patched up whereby Ajit Singh agreed to send his daughter in marriage to Farrukh Siyar, to send his
son Abhai Singh to the court with the Mir Bakhshi, to give peshkash and to accept appointment to
Thatta. According to a secret codicil, as soon as Ajit Singh marched a few stages towards Thatta to
demonstrate his loyalty, he would be appointed governor of Gujarat. Husain Ali personally issued a
rescript appointing Ajit Singh to Gujarat even without obtaining the formal approval of the Emperor.
First Trial of Strength between the Saiyids and Farrukh Siyar
In the absence of the Mir Bakshi, Abdullah Khan had found it difficult to maintain his position in the face
of opposition of the Emperor’s favourites, chiefly Mir Jumla and Khan-i-Dauran. Both of these had been
close to Farrukh Siyar, and although lacking any capacity or experience of high office, wanted to exercise
supreme power by ousting the Saiyids. Like Zulfiqar Khan earlier, the Saiyids wanted to keep all the
principal levers of power in their hands, and wanted that “no business should be transacted or mansabs
and appointments made without their advice and consultation.” (Khafi Khan) The favourite of the
Emperor, argued that the wazir and the Mir Bakhshi should recognize the limits of their power, and not
act without obtaining the approval and concurrence of the Emperor.
These two contradictory concepts of the nature of the wizarat resulted in a series of crises in which the
Saiyids steadily gained till they were powerful enough to displace Farrukh Siyar and to put their own
nominee on the throne. All issues became a subject to this struggle which also further aggravated the
crisis of the jagirdari system and strained the loyalty of the nobles to the Mughal throne.
The immediate cause of the crisis was the interference of the royal favourites in the wazir’s sphere of
administration. Farrukh Siyar authorized Mir Jumla to sign all papers on his behalf, declaring that “the
word and seal of Mir Jumla are my word and seal.” Mir Jumla started entertaining proposals for
mansabs and promotions and put the imperial seal without passing them through the office of the
diwan-i-wizarat. This was contrary to all rules of procedures, and also meant financial loss to the wazir,
depriving him of the perquisites for appointments.
Matters were worsened because Abdullah Khan who was primarily a soldier had left all affairs of state in
the hands of his deputy, Ratan Chand. Ratan Chand was not incompetent, but he was haughty and over bearing, and would do nothing without a suitable bribe for himself and his master, Abdullah Khan. Mir
Jumla refrained from these practices, and was also prompt in business.
Another factor which was a cause of complaint by Farrukh Siyar was Ratan Chand’s resort to ijara
(revenue farming). Even khalisa lands were farmed out. Whenever an amil was appointed, Ratan Chand
would take from him a contract or lease in writing and realize the money from his banker, i.e. one who
had stood surety for the contract. According to custom and tradition, ijara was considered ruinous and
Farrukh Siyar had forbidden it. However, ijara, which had become general under Jahandar Shah, was in
part a response to the growing breakdown in administration. The zamindars were withholding revenue,
and there was a famine at the beginning of Farrukh Siyar’s reign which afflicted the area around Delhi. In
the words of a contemporary, “the scarcity of food-grains reached a limit that nobody had ever seen or
heard in the past.”
Mir Jumla took advantage of these factors to impress upon Farrukh Siyar that the Saiyids were unfit for
high office, and that there would be no peace and prosperity in the empire as long as they had a hand in
the administration. He also accused them of being haughty and ease-loving and of lowering the
Emperor’s prestige by disregarding his authority.
Hoping to overawe the Saiyids and make them retire from their offices voluntarily, Farrukh Siyar began
to augment the military power of his favourites, Mir Jumla and Khan-i-Duaran. A number of their
relatives were also pushed forward till each of them had over 10,000 men at their command.
This was the situation which Husain Ali found on his return from Marwar. After due deliberations, the
Saiyids came to the conclusion that they would not be able to maintain their position at the court unless
they had the control and resources of one of the more important subahs. Hence, Husain Ali demanded
and secured for himself the post of Viceroy of the Deccan in place of Nizam-ul-Mulk. His intention was to
nominate a deputy like Zulfiqar Khan had done earlier and to remain at the court
himself. Farrukh Siyar and his favourites rightly objected that the combination of three such powerful
posts – the wazir, mir bakhshi, and viceroy of the Deccan in the hands of one family would be dangerous
and undesirable. Hence, Farrukh Siyar asked Husain Ali to proceed to the Deccan personally. He also
delayed issuing a farman appointing Ajit Singh as governor of Gujarat.
A crisis now developed. Fearing an attack by the Emperor’s supporters, the Saiyids retired to their
houses, and military preparations began on both sides. But the royal favourites, Mir Jumla and Khan-iDauran, shrank from measuring sword with the Saiyids because, in the words of a contemporary, they
“were only carpet knights, not true fighers”. An attempt was made to induce M. Amin Khan, the second
bakhshi and cousin of Nizam-ul-Mulk, to undertake the task. M. Amin Khan was willing but wanted the
wizarat in reward. The Emperor and his friends felt that it would be still more difficult to get rid of him
afterwards. Finally, a compromise was arrived at with the intervention of the Emperor’s mother. It was
agreed that Husain Ali would proceed to the Deccan to take personal charge of it. Mir Jumla who had
been appointed governor of Bihar and, perhaps also of Bengal, would also take personal charge of the
province. The Saiyids also agreed that one of the Emperor’s favourite, Khan-i-Dauran, be made acting
Mir Bakshi. Husain Ali left for the Deccan in the middle of May 1714. He carried with him the authority
to appoint and dismiss all jagirdars and office holders in the Deccan, as also the right to transfer
commandants of forts. These rights had previously been zealously held by the Emperor as his
prerogative. The transfer of these rights to the Viceroy of the Deccan must be considered the first step
in its detachment from the Empire.
As soon as Husain Ali’s back was turned, Farrukh Siyar sent secret instructions to Daud Khan Panni, then
governor of Gujarat, transferring him to Burhanpur, and asking him to resist Husain Ali. Daud Khan
reached Burhanpur by forced marches, and met Husain Ali on the field of battle. H usain Ali won easily
and obtained the secret letters sent to Daud Khan by Farrukh Siyar, thus giving the Saiyids further proof
of the duplicity of their master.
Final Crisis leading to the Deposition of Farrukh Siyar
Thus, the first trial of strength did not settle any issues. If anything, it made the Saiyids conscious of the
weakness of their position, and led them to busy themselves in recruiting allies wherever they could.
Farrukh Siyar turned to the old nobles, especially to the group consisting of M. Amin Khan, Nizam-ulMulk and their associates. He also tried to enlist Ajit Singh, Jai Singh, Maharaja Sangram II to his side.
Thus, at the instance of Jai Singh, Banswara, Dungarpur, etc. were once again placed under the
overlordship of the Rana. The Rana requested permission from Farrukh Siyar for helping his mother
making a pilgrimage to Garh Mukteshwar. In reply, Farrukh Siyar sent a gracious farman, assuring safe
conduct to the Maharana’s mother. Other concessions were also made to the Rana.
Although Jai Singh had been appointed governor of Malwa at the instance of the Saiyids, he had steadily
moved away from them. This was on account of the Saiyid intervention in the Kota-Bundi dispute
against Budh Singh, the protege and son-in-law of Jai Singh, and the Saiyid support to Churaman Jat who
was trying to carve out a principality on the brders of Amber, areas on which Jai Singh had his own eye.
Jai Singh’s ambitions had grown after he had gained a significant victory against the Marathas in 1714,
driving the Marathas across the Narmada at great loss. Also, as per tradition, he wanted to deal directly
with the Emperor rather than the wazir. In the middle of 1716, at the repeated and urgent summons of
Farrukh Siyar, Jai Singh appeared at the court. First, Bhim Singh was expelled from Bundi, and Budh
Singh was restored to it. Next, Jai Singh was nominated to lead an expedition against the Jats. Abdullah
Khan was not even consulted on the subject.
Meanwhile, the internal crisis deepened. Inayatullah Khan Kashmiri, who had worked under Aurangzeb,
but had gone to Mecca following the execution of his son, Sadullah Khan at the beginning of Farrukh
Siyar’s reign, returned. Farrukh Siyar who was now keen to win over the old Alamgiri nobles to his side,
appointed Inayatullah as diwan of tan (salaries) and khalisa. For some time, Inayatullah Khan worked
closely with the wazir, Abdullah Khan, but soon the two fell apart. At Inayatullah Khan’s instance, who
produced a letter from the Sharif of Mecca that the levying of jizyah on the non-Muslims was
“obligatory”, jizyah was reimposed, much to the displeasure of Abdullah Khan.
Inayatullah Khan next tried to tackle the problem of jagirs about which there was a growing
dissatisfaction among the khanzads i.e. the scions of the old nobles. He examined the salaries and the
yields of the jagirs, and proposed to set aside the mansabs of those who by force and cunning had
accumulated mansabs beyond their deserts laying their hands on the most productive jagirs. These were
identified as “Hindus and eunuchs and Kashmiris” and men of low ranks, whether of the diwani, or the
bakhshi, or the khan samani offices. In consequence, in the words of contemporary historians, Khafi
Khan and Mirza Muhammad, “there was a scarcity of jagirs for the others. People belonging to old
families had been reduced to the dust.”
The problem of shortage of jagirs and the dissatisfaction of the khanazads had become marked during
the latter years of Aurangzeb, and had steadily worsened, as we have seen. Hence, party struggle at the
court also revolved around the question of the grant of jagirs, specially the productive one
Since Ratan Chand had the support and backing of the subordinate officials of the administration, and of
Hindustani as distinct from the Turanis and Iranis, or the old nobles, he opposed these reforms, and at
his instance Abdullah Khan refused to implement them.
Meanwhile, after fourteen months of the close investment of the Jat stronghold, Thun, Jai Singh was
unable to gain a decisive victory. Abdullah Khan neogtiated a settlement with the Jat leader, Churaman,
over the head of Jai Singh. The Jat leader agreed to pay 50 lakhs of rupees in cash and goods to the
state, besides a private gift of 20 lakhs to the wazir. He also surrendered his strongholds, Thun, Dig etc.
In return, his mansab and his domination over many areas in the neighbourhood was tacitly a ccepted.
The agreement with Churaman was of doubtful benefit to the Saiyids. Churaman was a fair weather
friend, as they were to discover later. At Lahore, Churaman had been a partisan of Azim -ush-Shan, but
his role was to plunder. At Agra, he was with Jahandar Shah, but was the first to plunder when the tide
of battle turned against him. Further, the agreement made Jai Singh feel that he had been cheated of
success. This meant a definite rift between him and the Saiyids – something which the Saiyids regretted,
and tried to reverse later on but of little avail.
The Saiyids, however, gained a considerable advantage by
Husain Ali’s agreement.with Shahu. After his arrival in the Deccan, Husain Ali, following the policy of
Nizam-ul-Mulk, had refused to accept Daud Khan Panni’s agreement for payment of chauth and
sardeshmukhi of the Deccan to the Marathas in a lump sum. The result was a revival of the war with the
Marathas who appeared every where and plundered and devastated every place. The Marathas had
built small mud-forts (garhis) in each pargana to which they retired when pressed. It was impossible for
the imperialists to destroy these garhis. The matters were made still more difficult by the underhand
opposition of Farrukh Siyar, who wrote letters to Shahu and to zamindars and diwans in the Karnataka
to oppose Husain Ali. As a result Husain Ali’s authority in Bijapur, Haiderabad, and the Karnataka had
been “reduced almost to a cypher”. (Khafi Khan).
It was in these circumstances that in the middle of 1717, Husain Ali opened negotiations with Shahu
through Shankarji Malhar, who had worked under Shivaji and was a sachiv (minister) under Raja Ram
and after settling down at Banaras, and had joined Husain Ali at Delhi. After protracted negotiations, in
February 1718, an agreement was reached whereby Shahu was given the right to collect chauth and
sardeshmukhi in the Deccan through his own agents. He was also given the swarajya of Shivaji, and
recent Maratha conquest in Berar, Gondwana and the Karnataka were also confirmed to him. In return,
Shahu agreed to pay a peshkash of rupees ten lakhs, to maintain a body of 15,000 horse to be displaced
at the disposal of the Viceroy Deccan and to make the country populous and to punish malfectors. In
return for the grant of sardeshmukhi, Shahu agreed to pay over one crore rupees as customary fees.
Husain Ali granted sanads to Shahu in conformity with this agreement even without the approval of the
Emperor. When approached Farrukh Siyar rejected the agreement, arguing that “it was not proper for
the vile enemy (i.e. the Marathas) to be over-bearing partners in matters of revenue and government.”
The objection was valid, but Farrukh Siyar had brought the troubles on his head by his intrigues against
his erstwhile wazir and Mir Bakhshi. In desperation, to stem a likely move of Husain Ali against him,
Farrukh Siyar took a number of steps. M. Amin Khan, cousin of Nizamu-ul-Mulk and a leader of the
Turanis, was appointed to Malwa to help Jai Singh and check the “oppressors”, in reality to bar the path
of Husain Ali to Delhi.
Contrary to the agreementg with Husain Ali, a number of appointments were made to Burhanpur to
weaken Husain Ali’s hold over the area. Finally, he summoned to court Ajit Singh, Nizamum-ul-Mulk, and
Sarbuland Khan who was the Emperor’s maternal grand-uncle and was governor of Bihar and a noted
warrior. These old nobles were asked to come “with a large following”. It is estimated that the combined
strength of the various Rajas and nobles, and the personel following (walashahis) of the Emperor came
to 70 – 80,000 horse. Abdullah Khan had been continually adding to the soldiers at his disposal, every
time the Emperor went out on a hunt, and it was rumoured that it would be used as an occasion to
attack Abdullah Khan. However, his strength including Barahas and non-Barahas, is estimated to have
been between fifteen and thirty thousand men. Thus, Farrukh Siyar could have ousted the wazir if he
could have held this coalition together. But this did not happen because of the pusillanmity and shortsightedness of Farrukh Siyar, and his fear that if he ousted the Saiyids with the help of these powerful
nobles, it would be even more difficult to get rid of them afterwards. Hence, Farrukh Siyar chose for the
post of wazir a newly risen favourite, Muhammad Murad Kashmiri, who was rapidly raised to the rank of
7000/7000 and the best jagirs in the provinces of Gujarat, Delhi and Agra were allotted to him. By this
time, his old favourites Mir Jumla and Khan-i-Dauran had been discarded. Mir Jumla had totally failed in
Bihar, and come to Delhi without royal permission after having failed to pay his soldiers and controlling
the turbulent zamindars of the province. His mansab and jagirs had been resumed by Farrukh Siyar and
restored only at the intervention of Abdullah Khan. He was made sadr of Lahore with Abdullah Khan
backing. Khan-i-Dauran, it was suggested, was in secret league with the Saiyids and revealed to them all
the secret plots of the Emperor against them.
Muhammad Murad had a bad reputation for his association with young boys. The old nobles were
intensely jealous of his rise, and withdrew their support to Farrukh Siyar. Meanwhile, Abdullah Khan
won over Nizam-ul-Mulk and Sarbuland Khan by obtaining high offices for them. F.ven Ajit Singh was
alienated because Farukh Siyar removed him from Gujarat on a charge of oppression. Hence, on arrival
at court, Ajit Singh sided with the wazir.
Thus when Husain Ali left Aurangabad for Delhi towards the end of 1718 accompanied by 10,000
Maratha troops under the command of the Peshwa Balaji Vishwanath, Farrukh Siyar was completely
isolated, except for the support of Jai Singh. Husain Ali’s excuse for coming to Delhi was that he had
obtained a (fictitious) son of Prince Akbar from from Shahu and wanted to Hand him over to Farrukh
We need not go into the detailed events which led to the deposition of Farrukh Siyar in February 1719,
and his assasination in captivity a few months later. In the deposition, Husain Ali was supported by M.
Amin Khan and Ajit Singh. Even Khan-i-Dauran favoured it. On the other hand, Abdullah Khan was of the
opinion that since the fort was completely under the control of the Saiyids’ men, and all posts close to
the Emperor were held by their nominees, or were to be handed over to them soon, there would be no
harm in keeping Farrukh Siyar on the throne. However, public opinion in the city was restive, and in the
process 2,000 Marathas troopers had been killed, and the rest compelled to leave town. Jai Singh was
loitering 20 kos from Delhi with 20,000 horsemen, and if some of the nobles in the city joined, it would
be hard to control the situation. Meanwhile, Farrukh Siyar delayed handing over to the nominees of the
Saiyids all the posts demanded by them.
Whatever the problems, the deposition and subsequent assassination of Farrukh Siyar was both a
mistake and a crime from which the Saiyids could never recover. From being looked upon as brave
individuals, who were fighting against an ungrateful mas ter for the preservation of their lives and
honour, after the deposition they began to be looked upon as tyrants and traitors to the salt. It also
cleared the way for the “Chin” group of Turani nobles to stand forth as champions of the Timurid
monarchy and the faith which was in danger of being subverted.
The Saiyid “New” Wizarat
After deposing Farrukh Siyar, the Saiyids set up a new monarch, the 20 year old Rafi-ud-Darjat. However,
he was consumptive and died after four months. He was succeeded by his brother, Rafi-ud-Daulah, who
also succumbed to the same disease in three months time. This showed the inability of the Saiyids to
persuade most of the royal princes to accept their offer of kingship. During the seven months rule of
these two princes, the
Saiyids reserved for their nominees all the posts, such as Daroghas of the Diwan-i-Khas or the
Ghusalkhana, or the Superintendent of the haram. Even the eunuchs and personal attendants of the
rulers were hand-picked by the Saiyids. Saiyid Himmat Khan Baraha was appointed the guardian of the
Emperor, and it was said that without his orders, the Emperor could not even be served with food! Thus,
the Emperor lost all personal liberty. After the accession of Muhammad Shah, the grandson of Bahadur
Shah, the hereditary door-keepers and attendants etc. were allowed to return to their former posts. But
in all matters of state the Emperor continued to be powerless.
Apart from the posts which gave access to the Emperor, the Saiyids made as few changes as possible.
Thus, in the provinces most of the previous governors and office-holders were continued. At the court,
except for some of the disreputed favourites of Farrukh Siyar, such as Muhammad Murad Kashmiri and
a few others, most of the others, including Khan-i-Dauran and Mir Jumla, were not deprived of their
mansabs and jagirs and given employment. In general, the Saiyids made no effort to monopolize high
offices of state. Thus, M. Amin Khan continued to be the second bakhshi; another Turani
Roshanuddaulah Zafar Khan was made third bakhshi, and even Inayatullah Khan whose proposed
reforms had angered Abdullah Khan was continued as Khan-i-Saman, and as the absentee governor of
Kashmir. Apart from the posts of wazir, Mir Bakhshi and Viceroyalty of the Deccan which the Saiyids
considered theirs by right, the only new posts given to the Barahas, or dependents of the Saiyids were
the governorships of Agra and Allahabad, and the faujdari of Moradabad – all areas of strategic
Despite their concilatory policies, two centres of resistance to the Saiyids developed at Agra and
Allahabad. At Agra, an adventurer named Mitr Sen, and some of his associates, proclaimed a rebel
prince, Neku Siyar, as Emperor. The Allahabad rebellion was led by Chhabela Ram, a protege of Farrukh
Siyar. The Saiyids were afraid that Neku Siyar might become a rallying point for all their opponents.
Rumors were rife that Nizam-ul-Mulk who had been appointed governor of Malwa, Chhabela Ram and
Jai Singh were coming to the aid of Neku Siyar. However, he did not receive any support from the old
nobles, and the Saiyids were able to crush his rebellion soon. The
rebellion at Allahabad proved to be more protracted. Ultimately, at the threat of Husain Ali’s personal
intervention, Chhabela Ram’s nephew, Girdhar Bahadur, agreed to vacate the fort in return of the grant
of governorship of Awadh and all the jagirs including some of the important faujdaris, and rupees thirty
lakhs in cash. These terms, and the fact that it took fourteen months to deal with these two rebellions,
showed the limitations of the power and support of the Saiyids: their subordinates were not
experienced and powerful enough, and the Saiyids were themselves loth to leave the capital.
The Saiyids continued their earlier policy of consolidating their alliance with the Rajputs and the
Marathas, and to appease Hindu opinion as far as possible. Immediately after the deposition of Farrukh
Siyar, jizyah was abolished once again, credit for it being given to Ajit Singh. As a further gesture of
goodwill, Ajit Singh’s daughter who had been converted to Islam before being married to Farrukh Siyar,
was allowed to renounce her new faith and return to her home, taking all her wealth and property with
her. The Saiyids ignored the opposition to this step by the qazis whao argued that renunciation of Islam
Through Ajit Singh, the Saiyids also tried to win over Jai Singh and Maharana Sangram Singh II. With the
help and backing of the Rana, and a number of disaffected nobles who had resorted to Amber, Jai Singh
had moved to Toda Bhim, 80 kos from Agra, watching the situation there. After the fall of Agra, and
under the threat of an invasion of his territory, Jai Singh withdrew from Toda Bhim. In an effort to
appease Jai Singh, he was granted the important faujdari of Sorath in Gujarat and granted a large sum of
money. Ajit Singh was granted the subah of Ajmer along with Gujarat. The two Rajput rajas, who had the
support of the Rana of Mewar, formed a powerful group which could have played a decisive role. The
returning confidence of the Hindus is reflected in Khafi Khan’s “complaint” that “from the environs of
the capital to the banks of the Narabada, the infidels were engaged in repairing temples and attempting
to forbid cow-slaughter.”
The pact with the Marathas was strengthened by the formal Imperial grant of chauth and sardeshmukhi
of the Deccan which Balaji Vishwanath took, along with some members of Shahu’s family who had been
in captivity. Although no Maratha troops remained in the North, Alam Ali, Husain Ali’s deputy in the
Deccan, was instructed to follow the advice of Shankarji Malhar in all matters as the latter had close
connections with Shahu.
Churaman Jat was also appeased by being given charge of the royal highway between Delhi and
Gwaliyar, and other concessions. In return, Churaman sided with the Saiyids in the siege of Agra.
Despite the sullenness of a large section of the nobles, and the underhand opposition of the Turanis, the
Saiyids might have been able to consolidate their position given time, and if differences about power,
policies and pelf had not risen between the two brothers. Thus, differences arose between the brothers
regarding the spoils from the fort at Delhi after the deposition of Farrukh Siyar which had been seized by
Abdullah Khan, and the bulk of the treasures at Agra estimated to be two to three crores had been
seized by Husain Ali after the fall of Neku Siyar. Ratan Chand managed to evolve a compromise by
pointing to the “Turani” danger though neither side was satisfied. There was also a subtle struggle for
power between the brothers. Husain Ali was much more energetic than Abdullah Khan, and he rapidly
out-classed the latter in the exercise of real power. But Husain Ali was of a hot and hasty temperament
and failed to weigh the situation carefully before coming to a decision. As Khafi Khan says “He (Husain
Ali) deemed himself superior in military and government matters to his brother, though he was forgetful
of the real matter, and unacquainted with stratagem.”
Aware of the importance of the old nobles, especially of Nizam-ul-Mulk and the Chin group, Abdullah
Khan had paid special attention to this group. He used to say, “We are three brothers of whom Niazm-
ul-Mulk is the eldest, and Husain Ali the youngest.” In a latter to Nizam-ul-Mulk, Abdullah Khan
explained his policy in the following words:
“The high and mighty task of administering Hindustan is not one that can be accomplished single handed, without the help of prominent nobles and officers of state. Under the circumstances, is it better
that I should bring forwaqrd new (untried) men and become dependent on them, or that I should
continue to take the help of one like you who has ever been a friend?” However, careful not to allow
Nizam-ul-Mulk to become too powerful, Abdullah Khan wanted to appoint him as governor of Bihar
which had notoriously turbulent zamindars, and yielded little money. But Husain Ali, confident of the
position of his deputy,
S.Alam Ali in the Deccan and his own position in the North, insisted on sending Nizam-ul-Mulk to Malwa.
Nizam accepted on the promise that it would not be transferred from him soon. He also refused to leave
his son behind at the court as his wakil, despite repeated requests from the Saiyid. He was accompanied
to Malwa by more than one thousand mansabdars who also took their families with them.
Thus, a show-down between the ‘Chin’ group led by Nizam-uI-Mulk, and the Saiyids appeared
inescapable. Husain Ali precipitated matters by transferring Nizam from Malwa, offering him Agra,
Allahabad, Burhanpur or Multan, whichever he chose. The Saiyids had been receiving news that Nizamul-Mulk had been collecting men and materials of war in excess of his requirements as the governor, and
that he had his eyes on the Deccan. Nizam justified these by pointing to the depredations of the
Marathas who were harrying the province with 50,000 horses. Dissatisfied, Husain Ali had instructed his
bakhshi, S. Dilawar Ali, who had been deputed with a strong force to deal with a dispute in Kotah-Bundi
to keep a watch on the Malwa border. After issuing orders for the transfer of Nizam from Malwa,
Dilawar Ali was asked to be alert, and letters were sent to S. Alam Ali to be vigilant in the Deccan. Having
taken these precautions, the Saiyids sent a mace-bearer to escort Nizam-ul-Mulk to the court.
There is little doubt that the Saiyids over-estimated their power in throwing the gauntlet to Nizam-ulMulk. The latter had been warned by his cousin, M. Amin, that the Saiyids intended to move against him
after the conclusion of Girdhar Bahadur’s rebellion at Allahabad. He had also received messages from
the Emperor and from the Queen Mother asking him to liberate them from the grip of the Saiy ids.
Hence, Nizam-ul-Mulk was fully prepared. He disregarded the orders for recall to the Court, and crossed
the Narmada into the Deccan where he was immediately joined by the governors of Khandesh and
Berar. Many other nobles including many of those considered close to the Saiyids also threw in their lot
with Nizam-ul-Mulk who sedulously preached that whatever he was doing was for the prestige of the
royal house, the Saiyids having decided to subvert the Timurid dynasty; that the Saiyids were
determined to ruin and disgrace all Irani and Turani families beginning with
his destruction, and that the Saiyids were allied with the Hindus and were pursuing policies which were
anti-Islamic and detrimental to the Empire.
Thus, defence of king, race, religion and empire were the slogans raised by Nizam-ul-Mulk which the
Saiyids found difficult to counter. Last minute efforts by Abdullah Khan to conciliate Nizam by granting
him the Viceroyalty of the Deccan were not productive and not acceptable to Husain Ali. Even more
disastrous was the decision of the Saiyids to divide their forces, with Husain Ali leading an army to the
Deccan, taking the Emperor with him. Earlier, Nizam had defeated Alam Ali who had been joined by a
force of 15 – 16,000 Marathas led by Balaji Vishwanath. Nizam had then turned north, and defeated
Dilawar Ali Khan. Before Husain Ali could confront Nizam-ul-Mulk, he was assassinated in a conspiracy
hatched by Haidar Quli Khan, the Mir Atish, helped by M. Amin Khan and others. Efforts of Abdullah
Khan to raise a new puppet, and gather a new army proved futile. He was defeated near Delhi by M.
Amin Khan and Emperor Muhammad Shah in November, 1720.
Thus ended the “new” wizarat of the Saiyids which lasted less than two years. The effort of the Saiyids,
to make the wizarat the hub of affairs, and to tread their way back to the type of liberal, inclusive state
associated with Akbar was a significant step. It failed, partly due to the narrow social base of the
Barahas, but even more to the deep divisions among the nobility, and the strong desire of the old
nobles, the Mughals, who considered themselves the upholders of the dynasty and the empire, not to
allow power to pass into the hands of the despised Hindustanis. The growing shortage of productive
jagirs, and the growing turbulence of the zamindars heightened party strife. The Saiyids also made a
number of political mistakes including their internal discord which hastened their downfall.
The Wizarat of Muhammad Amin & Nizam-ul-Mulk
After the fall of the Saiyids, M. Amin Khan was made wazir with the title of Itimad-ud-Daulah, and a
mansab of 8000-8000 du-aspa, sih-aspa, and the absentee governorship of Multan. His son, Qamaruddin
Khan, was appointed second bakhshi with the rank of 7000 and the faujdari of Moradabad which was as
large as a subah. He was also made darogha of the Ghusalkhana which regulated access to the Emperor,
and darogha of the Ahadis
(gentlemen trooper). Khan-i-Dauran was made chief Bakhshi, and Saadat Khan who had taken part in
the conspiracy against Husain Ali was rewarded with the governorship of Awadh. Abdus Samad Khan
retained Lahore, with the addition of Kashmir in the name of his son. Muhammad Amin continued the
Saiyids policy to make the wazir the real hub of affairs, and of trying to win the support of Rajputs,
Marathas and the Hindus generally. Thus, Muhammad Amin Khan, showed no inclination to relax the
wazir’s control over the Emperor. According to a contemporary, Warid, the only share of Muhammad
Shah was to sit on the throne and to wear the crown. The Emperor was afraid of the wazir and gave him
A proposal to revive jizyah was abandoned due to the opposition of Raja Jai Singh and Raja Girdhar
Bahadur. The agreement made with the Marathas for the grant of chauth and sardeshmukhi of the
Deccan was confirmed by the grant of fresh sanads, something to which Nizam-ul-Mulk had also agreed
to in a secret meeting with Peshwa Baji Rao soon after the downfall of the Saiayids. Ajit Singh was
removed from Gujarat due to his mal-administration, but the wazir was suspected of wanting his
restoration to either Gujarat or Ajmer,
However, Muhammad Amin Khan died after a year and three months (Jan. 1721). The way was now
open for the assumption of wizarat by Nizam-ul-Mulk. Nizam-ul-Mulk did not show any eagerness to
assume the office, and even after the receipt of royal summons went to the Karnataka in order to settle
the affairs there. Appearing at Delhi in February 1722, almost a year after the death of Muhammad
Amin, Nizam-ul-Mulk found that the administration had deteriorated and made worse due to factional
strife at the court. It soon became apparent that Nizam’s real interest was to hold on to the Deccan and,
if possible, to retain Malwa and to add Gujarat to it. He nce, he had Gujarat transferred to his son,
Ghaziuddin Khan, and moved towards Gujarat with a large army to oust the existing incumbent, Haider
Quli Khan. On the way, he met Baji Rao, a second time near Jhabua in Malwa. Baji Rao had invaded
Malwa with a large force. In the Deccan, Mubariz Khan, Nizam-ul-Mulk’s deputy, had repudiated the
treaty for the grant of chauth and sardeshmukhi with the Marathas. The secret accord between Nizam ul-Mulk and Baji Rao shows that Nizam-ul-Mulk’s tirade
against the Marathas and the Rajputs was subject to modification when it suited his interests.
After ousting Haider Quli from Gujarat, Nizam returned Delhi. Nizam now put forward a scheme of
reforms of the administration. Its main emphasis was that only fit nobles and soldiers should be
employed, as in the time of Aurangzeb; that the jagirs should be redistributed and khalisa lands given in
jagir should be resumed. He also wanted a ban on farming of crown-lands, and denounced bribe taking.
He wanted the restoration of jizyah as in the time of Aurangzeb.
Nizam-ul-Mulk’s hope of rallying the old nobles to his side in this manner was not very successful. The
new nobles, including the Hindustanis who were entrenched in the administration, were strongly
opposed to any review of the jagir holdings. They seized upon Nizam’s proposal for the revival of jizyah,
denouncing it as “inopportune”. Even Abdus Samad Khan, governor of Lahore, who was related to
Nizam, opposed the revival of jizyah.
It is not clear how sincere Nizam-ul-Mulk was for implementing his scheme of reforms. Towards the end
of 1723, he left for his jagir in Moradabad for “a change of air”, but moved towards Malwa on hearing of
renewed Maratha incursions into that rich and strategically placed province.
On his way to Malwa, Nizam-ul-Mulk heard the news that he had been superseded in the Viceroyalty of
the Deccan by his deputy, Mubariz Khan. Efforts were also made by the Emperor to enlist Shahu, and
some of the leading Maratha sardars against Nizam.
In October, 1724, in a battle at Shakar Khera, Nizam-ul-Mulk defeated Mubariz Khan with the aid of
Maratha troops led by Baji Rao,From this battle may be dated the de facto independence of Haiderabad.
The break up of the Mughal empire had begun. The defenders of the dynasty and of the empire had
turned around fully and became the chief instruments of their destruction.
Rise of Regional States and Foreign Invasions of India (1725-48)
The decade following the departure of Nizam-ul-Mulk from the court and his establishment as a semiindependent ruler in the Deccan, saw a rapid shrinkage of the area under the direct control of the
Mughal Emperor. In Bengal, Murshid Quli Khan had been effectively in charge since 1703. Efforts to
from Bengal had failed, and from 1710 he was in effective charge of Bengal, and Orissa. Bihar was added
to his charge later on. His son-in-law, Shujaat Khan, succeeded him in 1727. In Awadh, Saadat Khan was
appointed governor in 1723, and proclaimed his de facto independence when in 1726 he refused to be
transferred to Malwa. He was succeeded by his son-in-law, Safdar Jung, in 1739. In Punjab, Abdus
Samad Khan got the governorship in 1713 and was succeeded by his son, Zakariya Khan.
The diememberment of the Empire by the emergence of these states did not adversely effect the
political and economic development of the areas because in each case the governors who took charge
were exceptionally able persons who were able to govern their domains effectively on the whole. They
also maintained the outward sanctity of the Imperial crown by paying formal allegience to the Emperor,
and securing his formal approval to the succession by gifts etc. However, the rise of the Ruhelas in the
north west of Awadh, and of the continued though covert opposition of the Jats in the Agra – Mathura
region, and of the Sikhs in the Punjab created difficulties and led to the rise of new independent states
The biggest danger to all these states, however, was the growing power and sweep of the Marathas. The
foreign danger also appeared in 1739 in the shape of Nadir Shah. Although Ahmad Shah Abdali was
defeated in 1748, it was not long before Punjab and areas upto Agra and beyond became subject to
recurrent foreign invasions, while the English established themselves in Bengal.
During this period, the Mughal court remained supine, and subject to factionalism. Although
Muhammad Shah had been freed from the thraldom of the wazir with the departure of Nizam-ul-Mulk
from the Court, he showed little capacity for governance and administration, though all the outer
routine of court life set up by Akbar and the established forms of government were continued.
Muhammad Shah never led a military campaign during his twenty-nine years of reign, even his
excursions being confined to visiting the gardens in the neighbourhood, and occasionally to see the
annual festivals of Garh Mukteshwar. He was, however, liberal in his religious views, and freely
participated in the festivals of Holi, Dasera, etc.
Unfortunately, he chose as his main advisors not men who
were energetic and capable commanders, but carpet knights who were adept in witty conversation and
were soft in their behaviour. Thus, he chose as wazir Qamaruddin Khan who was slothful and a
drunkard, and as Mir Bakhshi Khan-i-Dauran, a Hindustani who had never led a campaign. As a
contemporary, Warid, says,”… Emperor and wazir alike lived in total forgetfulness of the business of the
administration, the collection of the revenue, and the needs of the army.” The noted historian Jadunath
Sarkar says: “With a foolish, idle and fickle master on the throne, the nobles began to give free play to
the worst forms of selfishness.” Bribery became rampant, and jagirs were freely sold. The leading role in
this was played by Kukijiu, daughter of a geomancer who had predicted the succession of Muhammad
Shah to the throne, and a holy man, Abdul Ghafur who claimed magical powers. These were joined by
Roshanuddaulah Zafar Khan Panipati, the third bakhshi. This group enriched itself by means of presents
made at the time of appointment or grant of jagirs, and shared their proceeds with the Emperor.
Although this gang fell from power in 1732-33, administration did not improve, the smaller mansabdars
suffering the most. They found it almost impossible to collect their dues from their jagirs on account of
the growing lawlessness. The growing distancing of the nobles from the Emperor, and lack of money to
pay the army left the Empire a hallow trunk.
It was in this situation that a new danger arose in the north-west in the shape of Nadir Shah. The Safavid
empire had entered into a state of decline from the second half of the seventeenth century. In 1709, the
Ghilzai Chief, Mir Waiz, rose against the Persians and seized Qandahar fort. In 1722, his son deposed the
Safavid monarch, and had himself crowned. Iran now came under the domination of the Afghans, while
the Ottomon Turks and Russia seized the opportunity to capture the western and northern parts of Iran.
Nadir Quli Beg, later Nadir Shah, rose to power by leading a Persian war of national resistance against
the Afghans. By 1730, Nadir had expelled the Ghilzais from the heart of Persia, and also captured Herat
from the Abdalis. He then turned against the Ottomons. In a series of campaigns he ousted the them
from the western part of Iran, but failed to recapture Baghdad. Exhaustion forced the two sides to
conclude a truce in 1736. Having gained his reputation as an intrepid commander, and gathering a band
of faithful followers, Nadir had no difficulty in ousting the Safavid ruler who was a minor, and ascending
the throne in 1737.
The Delhi court watched these developments in a mood of benign neglect. For Nadir Shah the invasion
of India was a logical step after the expulsion of the Ghilzais and Abdalis from Persia, and the stalemate
in the war with the Ottomon Turks. It was only from India that he could replenish his treasury for a
renewal of the war against the Ottomans. The weakness of the Delhi government was also no secret
after the set backs they had suffered in Malwa and Gujarat at the hands of the Marathas, and the
appearance of a Maratha army outside Delhi in 1737.
The Mughals had tried to safeguard India from an invasion from the north-west by using diplomatic
means to see that a combination of powers hostile to India did not arise in West Asia, by maintaining a
strong administration at Kabul and if possible, keeping control of Qandahar. Kabul and Qandahar were
considered the two gateways to India. The Mughals also sought to control the Afghan tribesmen by
giving economic subsidies to the tribesmen and by employing them in their armies.
When Nizam-ul-Mulk was at Delhi in 1724, he vaguely talked of leading a campaign to Isfahan to restore
the Safavids with whom the Mughals had an old tradition of friendship despite clash over the control of
Qandahar. But the Court had neither the power nor the desire to do so. Instead, it sought to establish
friendly relations with the Ghilzai chief, Mahmud, by an exchange of letters.
As early as 1730, Nadir Shah had sent an embassy to Muhammad Shah, announcing his intention to
march on Qandahar. Recalling old ties of friendship between the two countries, and their common
interest in dealing with the Afghans, he asked the Emperor to close the frontier to all Afghan refugees
once the operations had begun. Muhammad Shah replied that the subahdars of Kabul and Sindh were
being instructed to comply, and that the Kabul army would be reinforced for the purpose.
However, instead of attacking Qandahar, Nadir Shah turned his attention to the tussle with Turkey, and
the Mughal court became engrossed with the threat posed by the Marathas in Malwa and Gujarat, and
forgot about the north-west.
- From the time of Aurangzeb, a sum of rupees twelve lakhs used to be sent to the Governor of Kabul for disbursement amongst the Afghan tribesmen and for the defence of the hill forts. Kabul had an able governor in the person of Nasir Khan, but Roshanuddaulah Zafar Khan, the third bakhshi who was in charge of making the payment, kept half of the subvention. When Zafar Khan fell from power in 1732-33, he was ordered to pay back to the treasury two crores of rupees he had defalcated. The charge of paying the subsidy was entrusted to Khan-i-Dauran, the Mir Bakhshi. Khan-i-Dauran was not corrupt but he distrusted Nasir Khan who was an Irani and had been appointed through Zafar Khan. Although the danger of an Iranian invasion of Kabul and India was discussed widely, Khan-i-Dauran pooh pooohed the danger, and even charged Nasir Khan of being in league with Nadir Shah. In consequence, the subsidy was either paid irregularly, or paid only in part. In desparation, Nasir Khan wrote that out of the five years salary due to the soldiers. Khan-i-Dauran termed it as an excuse to extract large sums of money, and said, “Our houses are built on the plains, and we do not fear anything what we see with our eyes. Your house stands on the Bhochla hill and you have probably sighted Mongol and Qizalbash armies from the roof of your house.”
- It would appear that Nadir Shah was using the flight of Afghans to Afghanistan as an excuse for interference there. In 1732, he sent a second embassy making the same charge. The Delhi court excused itself on the ground of preoccupation with the “Deccan infidels”, and repeated the earlier assurances. In 1737. Nadir Shah sent a third envoy announcing his coronation, and his preparations for the conquest of Qandahar. He repeated earlier demands for preventing the Afghans from entering into Kabul and Peshwar. The envoy was asked to return in forty days. Though an answer was given by the Court circles, the envoy tarried at Delhi for a year because he liked the comforts of the life there. Again, the demands of Nadir Shah were merely a pretext for invading India.
- After the fall of Qandahar in early 1738, Nadir Shah marched on Kabul. No attempt had been made by the Mughal Court tostrengthen the position of the governor. Even after the capture of Kabul, Nadir Shah wrote to Muhammad Shah disavowing any intention against Indian teritory.
- The Governor of Kabul, Nasir Khan, had strongly fortified the Khyber Pass to block Nadir Shah’s entry into the Punjab. Nadir outflanked and defeated him, and besieged Lahore. The governor of Lahore, Zakariya Khan, sent urgent appeals to Delhi for reinforcements but none arrived, and after a valiant resistance, Zakariya Khan was forced to lay down arms. The way to Delhi was now open.
- There was utter imbecility of the Court in dealing with the impending invasion. It could not even decide who should lead the army. It was popularly believed that Nadir Shah was invited to India by Nizam-ul-Mulk and Saadat Khan, the governor of Awadh, to stem the growing Maratha danger.
- The Mughal defeat at Karnal, the death of Mir Bakhshi, Khan-i-Dauran, while fighting to aid Saadat Khan, the capture of both Nizam-ul-Mulk and Saadat Khan, the surrender of the Mughal Emperor, the execution and atrocities perpetrated by Nadir Shah at Delhi which are still etched in public memory, need not detain us. However, the consequences of Nadir Shah’s invasion need to be assessed.
- Nadir Shah’s invasion, and the loss of Kabul and of areas west of the Indus opened the doors of India to recurrent foreign invasions from the north-west. The province of Thatta and the forts and fortresses belonging to it were also annexed by Nadir Shah. The defeat of the Mughal Emperor publicized still further the declining power of the Mughals. This was an encouragement to all types of local rajas and zamindars and others to assert themselves. However, the impact of the wealth and treasures carried away by Nadir Shah – estimated to be seventy crores of rupees including the peacock throne and the legendary kohinoor, has generally been over estimated. The Indian economy was still strong and vibrant, and the loss was rapidly made up. Till 1772, Delhi was a flourishing city, and the centre of trade and industry and finance.
- An indirect result of Nadir Shah’s invasion was that the old factions at the court disappeared, with the death of Khan-i-Dauran and Saadat Khan, and the departure of Nizam-ul-Mulk for the Deccan. Even the wazir, Qamaruddin Khan, was discredited.
- This was a wonderful opportunity for Muhammad Shah to select a set of new, able advisors so that he could consolidate what has been called “the state of Delhi”, i.e. the area extending in an arc roughly
- from Saharanpur to Nagor in the west, Farrukhabad in the east, and from the line of the Ganges to the south of the Chambal. As it was the old factions were replaced by new factions, and there was a complete neglect of administration so that in the words of a contemporary, Ashub, “every zamindar became a Raja, and every Raja a Maharaja.”
- However, even in this diminished state, the Mughal armies were able to meet and inflict a defeat on the Afghan invader, Ahmad Shah Abdali, who had succeeded as the Afghan king after the assasination of Nadir Shah in 1747. Ahmad Shah advanced on India to loot it to pay his Afghan followers. The Delhi Court awoke to its danger only after the fall of Lahore. In the battle at Manupur (1748) the Mughals gained a victory due to the intrepid efforts of Muin-ul-Mulk, the son of Qamaruddin Khan, and of Safdar Jung, the son-in-law and successor of Saadat Khan. This shows that character and will to fight was not lacking among the nobles and the soldiery. What was lacking was organisation and leadership which implied selecting the right men for the right jobs.
- While facing the danger from the north-west, the court and the rising independent states had to face another danger, the Maratha attempt to establish a Maratha domination in the name of the Peshwa.