CONQUEST AND CONSOLIDATION OF THE EMPIREAND RAJPUT POLICY
Conflicts with the Afghans—Second Battle of Panipat
- The return of the Mughals to Delhi in 1555 had not ended the Afghan danger, and the Mughals came within an ace of being thrown out of India again, following the death of Humayun at Delhi (1556).Even in the disruption of the Afghan empire, there were ample resources, both in men and leaders, to have made the reconquest of India by the Mughals a virtual impossibility.
- The Mughals had defeated a much larger force than theirs headed by Sikandar Sur at Sirhind in 1554, but Sikandar still had powerful forces at his disposal in the north-east corner of Punjab. Adali, another claimant to the Sur throne, dominated Bihar and east U.P. from his capital at Chunar. Bengal was under the control of Muhammad Khan Sur. 50,000 Afghans had assembled near Jaunpur under the son of Jalal Khan Sur. Hearing of the death of Humayun, the Afghans had thrown off the demoralization.
- The resurgent Afghans drove the Mughals out of Bayana, Etawah, Sambhal, Kalpi, Narnaul and Agra, and Hemu, a general of Adali, ” having swept before him the Amirs from the frontiers of Hindustan (i.e. north-west India),” according to Badayuni, advanced upon Delhi with a huge force.
- The rise of Hemu who has been called a baqqal (trader) has been a subject of much historical speculation.All traders were called baqqal in medieval India. Castewise, Hemu was a Dhusar or Bhargava, who claim to be Gaur Brahmans. He is said to have started life as a seller of saltpeter at Rewari, and was then shuhna (superintendent) of the market at Delhi under Islam Shah, and had also done the work of soldiering.
- The stages by which he rose to be the Chief Commander of the forces of Adali, and the position of wazir are not known, although he had the confidence of Adali from the beginning. He is reputed to have won twenty-two battles against the opponents of Adali or Sultan Adil Shah. However, it would be wrong to project Hemu as the leader of some kind of a Hindu resurgence. According to Abdul Fazl, after his victory at Delhi against Tardi Beg, ” the ambition of sovereignty” was stirring in Hemu’s mind. Badayuni says that he assumed the title of Bikramjit like a great Raja in Hindustan from whom the people of Hind take their era, and that he ” had done his best there to subvert the ordinances of Islam” . But Badayuni refrains from giving any details. Nizamuddin Ahmad merely says that Hemu had assumed the title of Raja Bikramjit. However, the assumption of the title of ” Vikramjit” does not imply that Hemu had proclaimed himself as an independent king, and none of the authors we have quoted above say so.
- In fact, the military force at the disposal of Hemu consisted almost entirely of Afghans. At the second battle of Panipat fought with Bairam Khan on November 5, 1556, Hemu’s left wing was commanded by Ramaiyya, the son of his sister, but there is no reference to his army consisting of Rajputs. In this situation, it would have been disastrous for Hemu to declare himself an independent king. As it was, we are told that there was some murmuring against Hemu among the Afghans who were, according to Badayuni, ” sick of his usurpation.. prayed for his downfall” . This was no doubt on account of jealousy at his rapid rise, and the confidence placed in him by Adali who had provided him with the military forces and abundant treasures. The rise of Hemu was really an index of the relatively more open society which had developed under the Afghans, and the growing accord of the Afghans with the Hindu rajas. This continued in the time of Babur, as we have seen, and was reflected in the subsequent Afghan support to Rana Pratap.
- The defeat of Hemu at the battle field of Panipat was due in part to the disaffection of some of Afghan sardars against him, Hemu’s disregard of artillery which he had earlier carelessly allowed the Mughals to capture, and his excessive reliance on his well-armed and trained elephants. Even then, the outcome of the battle was uncertain: both the Mughal left and the right wings having been thrown into disarray, and Hemu advancing towards the centre till, by chance, an arrow pierced his eye, and he fainted. Not seeing him, the army panicked, and dispersed. Hemu was brought to Bairam Khan who killed him after the young Akbar had been persuaded to touch his neck lightly with his sword.
- A minaret was made of the heads of the slain. We are told that immense treasures and stores were captured. Although Hemu’s wife escaped with elephants laden with gold, the gold she left behind was so great that it was given away on shields. Subsequently, Hemu’s home was attacked and his father killed.
- The historian, Abul Fazl, praises Hemu for his lofty spirit, courage and enterprise, and wishes that if Akbar had come out of his veil, or there had been some far-sighted master of wisdom in his court, they would have kept Hemu as a prisoner, and if he had been persuaded to join royal service, he would have rendered distinguished service.
- The Afghan danger did not disappear even after Hemu’s defeat. It took more than six months military operations and siege of Sikandar Sur at Mankot before he surrendered. Adali had been killed earlier in a battle with the king of Bengal. But the Afghans of Jaunpur continued to be active. According to Abul Fazl, ” The Afghans still carried in their brains the vapours of sedition.” Ali Quli Khan Zaman chased away the Afghans at Sambhal who had collected a force of 20,000 sawars. He then advanced on Jaunpur which he gained without opposition. Afghan sardars continued to hold the powerful forts of Chunar and Rohtas, and made repeated efforts to establish a separate principality of Jaunpur. Thus, after the downfall of Bairam Khan (1560), the Afghans proclaimed Sher Khan, a son of Adali who was the commandant of Chunar, as their king, and advanced on Jaunpur. Ali Quli Khan Zaman who was governor of Jaunpur, was fortunate in defeating them with the help of local jagirdars. The Afghans made a third attempt on Jaunpur in 1564 when they set up Awaz Khan, son of Salim Sur, as the king, and besieged the city. After an initial victory the Afghans dispersed for loot, enabling Ali Quli Khan Zaman to gain a complete victory over them.
- Even afterwards, the eastern areas continued to pose a problem. After defeating the Afghans, Ali Quli Khan Zaman himself began to dream of independence in the region. He established an active alliance with the Afghans of Bihar, and maintained good relations with the Afghan ruler of Bengal.
- Thus, the situation facing the Mughal empire in the east during the early years of Akbar’s reign was remarkably similar to the one facing Humayun at the time of his ascending the throne. We shall see how precisely Akbar tackled it.
STRUGGLE WITH THE NOBILITY
Bairam Khan’s Regency
- Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar, who had been born at Amarkot on 15 October 1542 when Humayun was in flight from Bikaner, had an adventurous life. When he was only one year old, Humayun had to abandon him and flee to Iran in the face of an attempt by Kamran to capture him. Akbar remained in the custody of Kamran for two years, and was well treated. It was only when Humayun had captured Qandahar with the help of Iranian forces, recovered Kabul and then lost it to Kamran that the latter had shown the meanness of exposing young Akbar on the battlements to the artillery fire of Humayun.
- Akbar had escaped unhurt. Thereafter, a number of tutors were appointed to impart to Akbar the training considered necessary for a young prince. But Akbar was more interested in hunting, riding, animal sports and other past-time such as pigeon-flying, so that he neglected his studies to the extent that he never learnt to write.
- When Akbar was at Kalanaur campaigning against Sikandar Sur, news was received of Humayun’s death at Delhi after a fall from his library. The_assembled nobles raised Akbar to the throne (1556), and Bairam Khan, who had been appointed his tutor (ataliq) by Humayun, and was the chief man on the spot, was appointed the wakil mutlaq, or in charge of all matters, political and financial. Since the Mughal position was still very insecure, and there was a lot of factionalism and demoralization in the nobility, many nobles having fled in panic at the advance of the Afghans, no one objected to the high position accorded to Bairam. Bairam showed firmness in executing Tardi Beg for his cowardice in evacuating Delhi, and punished others also. Earlier, another noble, Abul Muali, who had been close to Humayun, was apprehended while attending a feast held in honour of Akbar’s coronation, and put in jail. While these actions may have been necessary, it is clear that Bairam used the situation for removing from the scene two of his potential rivals. That Tardi Beg’s execution was kept concealed for three months lends credence to this charge. It is also underlined by the decision of Munim Khan, another potential rival of Bairam Khan, who was governor of Kabul and was a close confidant of Humayun, to postpone his departure from Kabul to India on learning of these developments. This provides the background to what has been called Bairam Khan’s regency which lasted for four years, from 1556 to 1560.
- During his regency, Bairam Khan had many achievements to his credit. The threat to Kabul from MirzaSulaiman, the ruler of Badakhshan, was averted, and the kingdom extended from Kabul to Jaunpur in the east, and upto Ajmer in the west. The powerful fort of Gwaliyar was captured. An expedition was sent to conquer Malwa. An effort was made to capture Ranthambhor, but had to be given up following Bairam’s downfall.
- Bairam had to face many problems in his dealing with the nobility while holding the highest office. As we have seen, the firm action taken by Bairam Khan to curb any potential rivals cowed down the nobility, and they were outwardly docile and obedient, as long as Bairam Khan enjoyed the confidence and support of the young king. But Maham Anaga, Akbar’s foster-mother, who had nursed Akbar right from the beginning, her relations, and the relations of other foster-mothers, such as the Atka Khail, were inwardly extremely jealous of Bairam’s preeminence, and tried to create a rift between Akbar and Bairam Khan. Their efforts were strengthened when Akbar’s mother, Hamid Banu Begum, and other women relations of the young Emperor who had remained at Kabul during this period due to political uncertainty, joined him at Agra, They tried to poison Akbar’s mind by using minor incidents, such as when some elephants ran towards Bairam’s tent and Bairam thought that the incident had been planned to remove him, and gave drastic punishments, or his redistribution of the royal elephants to some of his followers, taking some elephants away from Akbar. Akbar instinctively supported Bairam.
- However, the nobles began to be restive at Bairam’s domination, and his effort to keep all power in his hands and in the hands of a coterie dependent on him or raised by him. Since Bairam Khan was not a sovereign, he could not raise a new nobility dependent on him, but could only push forward comparatively junior and low ranking officers loyal to him. This, in turn, alienated a large section of the nobles. Matters were made worse when some of these officers lacked efficiency or behaved in an arrogant manner. The case of Shaikh Gadai, the sadr, and a favourite of Bairam Khan is a case in point. The revenue aspects of the empire were being earlier looked after by Pir Muhammad Khan, an old noble, as Bairam’s agent (wakil). He was removed and dismissed from service by Bairam Khan due to an unintended personal affront—Bairam Khan had gone to see Pir Muhammad since he was ill, but his servant, not recognising Bairam Khan, refused to admit him! Shaikh Gadai who was sadr, and close to Bairam Khan, now began to interfere in revenue affairs. He was very arrogant and niggardly in giving madadd-i-maash (revenue-free lands), and that, too, only after a personal appearance by the applicant. Shaikh Gadai was not low-born, nor was be a Shia, as has been alleged by some modern historians. Nor was he a new appointee, having been appointed sadr in the first year of Bairam’s regency. He has been praised by the orthodox Badayuni for his scholarly attainments. Thus, according to Badayuni, for several years, he was resorted to as an authority on religious questions by the sages and principal men of Hindustan, Khurasan, Transoxiana and Iraq. This precludes his being a Shia.
- Bairam was opposed by the Turkish nobles since he was a Turkman, i.e. an Iranized Turk, and was considered a Shia. But Bairam was a liberal, and associated with people from all sects. Badayuni praises him for his wisdom, generosity, sincerity, goodness of disposition, and humility, and that the second conquest of Hindustan, and the building up of the empire was due to his valour. He also says that Bairam was ” a great friend to religion”, and did not miss his regular prayers. Since Badayuni was an orthodox Sunni, this must be considered praise indeed. The dominant group of the nobles at the court were Chughtai Turks. Bairam worked with them and made no effort to displace them. In fact, he had cordial relations with the powerful group of Turkish nobles represented by the Uzbeks, such as Ali Quli Khan Zaman, his brother Bahadur Khan, etc.
- The Turkish nobles were prepared to work with Bairam Khan, but they were extremely envious, and always tried to poison Akbar’s ears against Bairam Khan. They found an opportunity to malign Bairam Khan when Shaikh Gadai, who was considered only a pen-pusher or cleric, began to interfere in high revenue and administrative affairs. His arrogance also caused offence all round.
- But neither the envy or jealousy of those who themselves wanted to exercise all powers and authority, and their resentment at the rise of comparatively low-ranking officers would have had much effect if Akbar who was growing up, had not wanted to exercise power himself. It was here that the role of the ladies close to him became important. Maham Anaga explained to Akbar that ” as long as Bairam Khan would remain, he would not allow His Majesty any authority in the affairs of the empire; and that in reality the imperial power was in his hands” (Nizamuddin). Some mistakes on the part of Bairam made these remarks more pertinent. It was felt strongly that while the servants of the emperor had poor jagirs, and were kept in the depth of poverty, those serving Khan-i-Khanan Bairam Khan were in ease and luxury. Worse, the emperor had virtually no privy purse at all so that on one occasion, his request for seventeen rupees was about to be turned down when Maham Anaga intervened, and made the payment from her own funds.
- We need hardly concern ourselves with the conspiracy which led to Bairam Khan’s downfall, following Akbar’s move from Agra to Delhi on the pretext of a hunting expedition. Once Akbar issued the farman calling all the nobles to come to him, even those close to Bairam deserted him. Bairam submitted, but was goaded into rebellion by those who wanted to ruin him. Bairam turned back from Bikaner on his way to Mecca and entered the Punjab as a rebel. Akbar soon triumphed over him, and Bairam submitted once again. Akbar gave Bairam the option of a handsome jagir in the sarkar of Kalpi and Chanderi, the post of the emperor’s confidential advisor, and a journey to Mecca. Bairam chose the last, but while on his way, he was assassinated by an Afghan out of personal spite at Patan in Gujarat. Since Bairam’s wife, Salima, was a cousin of Akbar, Akbar married her and brought up her son, Abdur Rahim who became a great noble in course of time.
- The downfall of Bairam Khan cannot be seen as a reaction against Khurasani (eastern Iran) nobles. There was no diminution of the position of the Turkish nobles during his time. His downfall has been seen by some modern historians as a reaction by the nobles against a centralizing tendency. Such a policy could succeed only if implemented by a ruler who had the necessary military skill and political sagacity. Hence, Bairam Khan’s success in centralizing all powers and authority in his hands could only be ephemeral.
- Bairam did not try to curb the financial and administrative powers of the nobles in their jagirs so that the revenues of the khalisa had virtually dried up. The all round increase of the jama, or assessed income by him led to a widening of the gap between the paper income and the real income. This led to increased opportunities of favouritism and became another factor which made Bairam Khan and his favourites the target of attack by the nobles who felt that they had not received their due share in the allotment of productive jagirs.
Struggle for Wikalat, Revolt of Uzbek Nobles and Others
The downfall of Bairam Khan led to increased factionalism in the nobility and efforts of powerful nobles
to act independently, in disregard of imperial wishes and interests. In this situation, the post of wakil,
which was the most prestigious post, combining financial, military and administrative powers became a
point of struggle between different factions. The two immediate contenders for the post were Maham
Anaga who wanted the post for her son, Adham Khan, and Shamsuddin Atka Khan, the foster-father of
Akbar, who had played an important role in the downfall of Bairam Khan. After some experiments,
Akbar gave the post to Munim Khan, a close associate of Humayun, who had been governor of Kabul
and whom Akbar called ” Khan Baba” or ” Baba-am” (My baba or father), as he had called Bairam Khan.
Munim Khan chose to work in close association with Maham Anaga, doubtless because she was
influential and enjoyed the confidence of the young emperor. In consequence, her power grew, and
many followers of her were given high posts. Some historians consider the period from the downfall of
Bairam (March 1560) to the first wikalat of Munim Khan, (Sept. 1560-Nov. 1561) to be the period when
Maham Anaga’s influence was at its height. According to Abul Fazl, this was the period when Maham
Anaga considered herself as the ” the substantive wakil, and sat on the masnad as such.” However, even
this period cannot be called a period of ” petticoat government” because Akbar’s wishes had to be taken
into account and his orders obtained before any matter was settled. Although, in the words of Abul Fazl,
” Akbar was still behind a veil” , i.e., he did not take interest in day to day administration, he asserted
himself on several occasions. Thus, in early 1561, when Akbar learnt that Maham’s son, Adham Khan,
who had been sent to conquer Malwa, had kept with him the choicest spoils of war, including some rare
beauties, he made a forced march and made Adham Khan yield the elephants and other booty. Again,
Akbar proceeded to Kara (near modern Allahabad) against Ali Quli Khan Zaman to make him disgorge
the treasures he had accumulated in the wars against the Afghans in Jaunpur. Ali Quli Khan Zaman had
enjoyed the patronage and support of Munim Khan. Munim Khan’s removal, in November, 1561, and
appointment of Atka Khan as wakil sharpened the party conflict, and led to a diminution of Maham
Anaga’s influence. This led to the murder of Atka Khan in his public diwan by Adham Khan (June 1562).
Akbar was very angry and punished Adhan Khan by having him thrown from’ the staircase of the fort till
he died. This marked the end of Maham Anaga’s surviving influence, and she died soon afterwards. Not
to be vindictive, Akbar erected a fine mausoleum for Adham Khan which has survived.
After the murder of Atka Khan, Munim Khan was made the wakil once more! But Akbar now decided to
take steps to strengthen central, control over the nobility. The first step taken in 1561 was to order an
enquiry into the revenue arrears of different sarkar and subahs (called vilayats) administered by
different commanders. The background to this was that many nobles had encroached on the income of
the khalisa areas, especially if they were the commandants (hakims) in the area in which their jagirs
were located. It was due to this that the imperial treasury was almost empty. This also explains Akbar’s
insistence on getting a proper share of the spoils of war gained by various nobles. Another step taken at
this time was to separate the executive and revenue responsibilities of jagirdars, there by reducing the
size of a jagir, and even breaking it up. This was first implemented in the jagirs held by the wakil, Munim
Khan, in the sarkar of Hissar-Hruza. ” However, it is difficult to say to what extent this
policy could be applied to the large jagirs held in adjacent areas by some of the powerful nobles and
their clansmen. Thus the Atka Khail had their jagirs in the Punjab; the Uzbeks east UP and Malwa; the
Qaqshals in Kara-Manikpur, and the Mirzas around Sambhal. It was only after defeating the powerful
group of Uzbek nobles that Akbar was able to break up these large clan headings.
The leading Uzbek nobles, Ali Quli Khan Zaman, Bahadur Khan, Sikandar Khan, Iskandar Khan and
Abdullah Khan were closely related to each other and had held important posts and commands from the
time of Humayun. Bahadur Khan had taken active part in the battle of Panipat against Hemu, and had
been wakil for a short period after the downfall of Bairam Khan; Ali Quli Khan Zaman had distinguished
himself in fighting against the Afghans of east U.P. and was governor of Jaunpur. The first to show an
inclination towards independence was Abdullah Khan Uzbek, the governor of Malwa. He started
behaving independently, and when Akbar reached near Sarangpur, which was then the capital of Malwa,
in order to pull him up, Abdullah Khan fled to Gujarat (1564). The sins of Abdullah Khan had been many
but he was forgiven at the instance of Munim Khan. However, this rebellion strengthened Akbar’s
prejudices against the Uzbeks about whom, according to Nizamuddin, he had a bad opinion. Akbar also
had a poor opinion of Khan-i-Zaman at his conduct in falling in love with a camel driver’s son whom he
would call ” My Padshah,” stand before him and bow down and do ” kornish” . At the time, Ali Quli Khan
Zaman and his clansmen controlled Awadh, Jaunpur and Banaras, i.e. areas which had once been parts
of the kingdom of Jaunpur. Taking advantage of the strong sentiment of regional independence which
had been reflected in successive Afghan rebellions, Ali Quli Khan Zaman had developed close friendship
with Sulaiman Karrani, the Afghan ruler of Bengal. He had also tried to befriend some of the Afghan
sardars of Bihar, and recruited soldiers from all groups in Jaunpur — Hindustanis, Afghans and Uzbeks so
that he collected a force of 30,000. It may be argued that these were only defensive measures on the
part of the Uzbeks nobles who felt that they had not received due rewards for their services, and feared
that Akbar was prejudiced against them and wanted to destroy them. However, not to take any chance,
in 1565 Akbar planned a hunt in the area, and sent a messenger asking Iskandar Khan, governor
of Awadh, to come to his court. Alarmed, the Uzbeks nobles met at Jaunpur, and decided upon an open
revolt. One group under Iskandar Khan attacked Kannauj by way of Lucknow, and another group
attacked Kara Manikpur (near Allahabad).
In facing the Uzbeks in east U.P., Akbar had to take into account that the Bengal ruler was keen to bring
Bihar under his control, and had invested fort Rohtas. At the same time, the Bengal ruler tried to prop
up the Uzbeks rebels of Jaunpur as a barrier between the Mughals and Bihar. For the purpose, he sent
an army under two well known Afghan generals, Sulaiman Mankali and Kalapahar, to aid Ali Quli Khan
Akbar took vigorous diplomatic and military measures to meet this threat. He dispatched an envoy to
the powerful ruler of Orissa, an old rival of the Bengal ruler, who agreed to take active steps against the
latter if he did not desist from aiding Khan Zaman. A messenger was also sent to the commandant of
fort Rohtas to offer help against the Bengal ruler. Akbar was able to isolate the Uzbeks diplomatically
and soon put them militarily on the run. He made Jaunpur his head-quarter and advised his nobles to
build houses there till the Uzbeks had been crushed completely. The operations against the Uzbeks
lasted two years. Akbar would have been able to destroy them earlier if Munim Khan, on account of his
old friendship with the Uzbeks and because he wanted to preserve a balance, had not wanted to protect
the Uzbeks and not halted operations against them at a critical time. Despite his reservations, Akbar
agreed, at Munim Khan’s instance, to pardon the Uzbek leaders and also to restore their jagirs (1566).
Meanwhile, Akbar had to face a new danger. His half-brother, Mirza Hakim, had been ousted from Kabul
by Mirza Sulaiman of Badakhshan and sought refuge in the Punjab, a step to which Akbar agreed.
However, while on the way, some evil-doers suggested to Mirza Hakim that he could easily capture
Lahore since Akbar was busy in the east with the Uzbeks. Mirza Hakim agreed, and after sacking Bhera
laid siege to the fort of Lahore. Hearing of these news, Akbar started from Agra with a force of 50,000.
Mirza Hakim, who had failed to win over the nobles of Punjab by bribery and promises of reward,
retreated when Akbar reached near Lahore in early 1567. Akbar did not pursue Mirza Hakim beyond the
Indus. Mirza Hakim was able to patch up a
peace with Mirza Sulaiman who left Kabul and returned to Badakhshan.
In Akbar’s absence, the Uzbek nobles rose in rebellion again, siezed the country upto Kannauj and
besieged the town. Further, in the hope of creating disaffections in Akbar’s camp, and in order to
emphasize that their break with Akbar was complete, they proclaimed Mirza Hakim as the king, and
issued the sikka and had the khutba read in his name. But they failed completely in their objectives.
Mirza Hakim had already left the Punjab. He had been a failure at Kabul and was seen as a broken reed.
Nor did the Uzbek nobles enjoy the prestige and power they had earlier.
Hence, the danger faced by Akbar by the rebellion of the Uzbeks in the east, and of Mirza Hakim’s
advent into the Punjab in the west in 1566 should not be unduly exaggerated. Akbar’s domestic
situation was now so firm that when the sons of Sultan Hussain Mirza found that their jagir of Sambhal
was too small for their growing family, and rose in rebellion, they were easily quelled by the local
officials, and had to flee to Malwa, and then to Gujarat.
Returning from Lahore, Akbar vigorously pursued the Uzbeks. In a desperate battle near Karra in June
1567, Khan-i-Zaman was killed and Bahadur Khan was captured and executed. To make clear his new
position of power, Akbar removed the various nobles of the Atka clan from the Punjab, and, ” like stars
dispersed them, giving to each one of them a jagir in various corners in Hindustan” (Bayazid Byat,
Akbar’s earliest biographer).
The defeat of Uzbek nobles and of the rebellion of the Mirzas virtually ended the challenge of a section
of the old nobles which looked askance at the process of centralization of authority in the hands of the
king, and wanted a more decentralized set up in which the power and privileges of the nobles could be
preserved. However, decentralization of power created the danger of dissidence among the nobility as
also reassertion of regional sentiments in areas such as the old Jaunpur kingdom, Malwa etc.
Except Asaf Khan who was an Irani, and rose in rebellion in order to keep the gains of his war in GarhKatanga, most of the rebellions during this period were led by Turani nobles. This was a definite factor in
the induction of a large number of Iranis into the nobility at this time, as also of Indian Muslims, such as
the Barha Saiyids.
Early Expansion of the Empire (1560-76)
During a brief period of about fifteen years, the Mughal empire expanded from the upper Ganga valley
to cover Malwa, Gondwana, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Bihar and Bengal. A major credit for these conquests
goes undoubtedly to Akbar for his unbounded energy, initiative, perseverance and personal leadership
qualities, and his uncanny ability to Be personally present at critical junctures, often by making almost
incredibly long marches. However, his success was also in no small measur e due to the rise of
competent and dedicated men. Akbar’s ability to spot talent and his willingness to advance men who
were sometimes of a humble social background made the government much more open to talent than
at any time earlier.
The process of expansion virtually began with the conquest of Malwa in 1561, and gained momentum
with the defeat of the Uzbek rebellion in 1567. Akbar sought justification of the conquest of Malwa on
the ground that it had once belonged to Humayun. At the moment, it was being ruled over by Baz
Bahadur, a son of Shujaat Khan, who had been governor of Malwa under Sher Shah, but had rebelled
with the rise of Adali. Baz Bahadur had been a noted warrior. He had established himself by defeating
and killing all his brothers. However, he had been defeated by the redoubtable Rani Durgavati in his
attempts to extend his rule over Gondawana. Like Adali, he was a reputed musician, and his love of
music and poetry — the latter addressed to the beautiful Rupmati who was his companion, had become
a household word in Malwa. Nizamuddin Ahmad, Akbar’s bakhshi, tries to provide further justification of
the Mughal attack on Malwa by saying that Baz Bahadur occupied himself with ” unlawful and vicious
practices” . These are, however, not specified. Nizamuddin goes on to say that Baz Bahadur ” had no
care of his kingdom, For this reason the arms of tyrants and oppressors had become long on faqirs and
on the poor; and most of the raiyat and the greater part of the people were stricken almost to death by
the hand of his tyranny.”
Thus, Akbar’s conquest is sought to be portrayed as one based on liberating the people from tyranny
and unjust rule. Whatever may have been the nature of Mughal rule later on, the invasion of Malwa
under Adham Khan and Pir Muhammad Khan, (1561)
far from providing relief to the people, resulted in unspeakable cruelties. After being defeated, Baz
Bahadur fled, leaving behind all his effects and women and dependents, including Rupmati. Adham Khan
mercilessly killed all the prisoners, not sparing Shaikhs and Saiyyids, and dragged many of the beauties
to his haram. But Rupmati preferred death to such dishonour. Akbar intervened, and marched to
Malwa, not so much to punish the perpetrators of such cruelties, but to get his share of the loot! Later,
when Adham Khan was recalled to the court, Pir Muhammad invaded Burhanpur in Khandesh where Baz
Bahadur had taken shelter, and repeated the cruelties perpetrated in Malwa. Although, Baz Bahadur
recovered Malwa for a brief time, he had to flee a second time, and after taking shelter with Rana Udai
Singh for some time, repaired to Akbar who enrolled him as a mansabdar of 1000, which was soon
raised to 2000 because of his knowledge of music.
While the empire had been expanded to include Malwa, similar attempts were made by Asaf Khan, the
governor of Kara (Allahabad) to gain both treasure and territory at the expense of Garh-Katanga, or
modern Gondwana. The state had been gradually built up during the 15th century by over-running and
subordinating many rajas in the region. At the moment, it comprised territory of about 48,000 square
miles, comprising many forts, popular cities and towns, and about 70,000 inhabited villages. Named
after two town, Garh and Katangi in the modern district of Jabalpur, its population consisted mostly of
Gonds. Hence, the tract was also called Gondwana. For the past sixteen years, the kingdom was being
ruled by Rani Durgavati who was both beautiful and talented. Daughter of Raja Shalivahan of Mahoba,
her husband had died leaving behind a son who was three or four years old at the time. Since then the
Rani had run the affairs of state with the help of competent advisors. She was skilful both in the use of
bow and a gun, and it is said that when she heard of a tiger, she would not rest till she had killed it.
Although comparatively remote, the kingdom had to wage a series of wars both in Bhata (erstwhile
state of Rewa in Bundelkhand), and with the rulers of Malwa. The recent Mughal conquest of Malwa,
and forcing Bhata to accept Mughal suzerainty, had made the kingdom vulnerable to Mughal pressure
from both the sides. The Rani does not seemed to have realized it fully, although she had sent her minister, Adhar
Kayastha, to Akbar for peace. The negotiations had failed, probably because Akbar demanded her
submission, and cession of some territories. Asaf Khan, the governor of Kara, who had learnt of the
Rani’s fabulous wealth and the state of her affairs through spies, had been itching for an attack on her
kingdom, and had been ravaging her borders. Possibly, his attack with 10,000 troops in 1564 was at first
regarded as another such frontier raid because the Rani who was supposed to have a force of 20,000
cavalry, numerous infantry and 1000 elephants was able to raise only a small force of about 2000 to
oppose Asaf Khan. Her minister, Adhar Kayasth, advised the Rani not to fight Asaf Khan with such
slender resources, but retreat into her kingdom to augment her forces. But in the usual Rajput fashion,
she considered retreat to be dishonourable. She advanced, and gained some advantage in a fight with
the Mughal advance guard, but was defeated near Damoh by Asaf Khan’s main forces, which by the time
had swelled to 50,000. These included the forces of some of the subordinate rajas of the Rani who had
defected from her. Wounded, the Rani preferred to stab herself to death in place of capture and
dishonour. Thus died one of most gallant woman-warrior and ruler of the country.
Asaf Khan now advanced to the capital Chauragarh which was gallantly defended to his death by the
Rani’s son, Bir Narayan, after the women had performed jauhar. Asaf Khan got immense wealth, an
uncalculated amount of gold and silver, jewels and 1000 elephants. Kamla Devi, a younger sister of
Durgavati, who had remained unhurt, was sent to the Imperial haram.
Although the conquest of Gondwana added immensely to the royal territories, its immediate effect was
to turn the head of Asaf Khan. Like Adham Khan in Malwa, he kept most of the treasures, and sent only
200 elephants to Akbar. Akbar was incensed, but kept quiet on account of the Uzbek rebellion. Even
then, hearing that he was to be asked to give accounts, Asaf Khan fled. He went first to the Uzbeks, then
returned to Gondwana where he was persued. Finally, he submitted and Akbar restored him to his
previous position. He was to do good service later. According to Abul Fazl, though a Tajik and belonging
to the writing class (ahl-i-qalam), ” he did deeds which made Turks humble” . This was the way Akbar
reared and promoted men of all classes on the basis of their merit. As for Carh-Katanga, Akbar saw no
use holding on to it. Asaf Khan was recalled in 1567, and Garh-Katanga restored to Chandra Shah, a brother of Rani’s
deceased husband, after taking ten forts to round off the subah of Malwa.
Unlike Malwa and Garh-Katanga, the Mughal occupation of Rajasthan was neither based on desire for
territory nor lure for wealth. No empire based on the upper Ganga basin could feel secure if a powerful
rival centre of power existed on its flank in Rajasthan. That is what had led to the conflict of Babur with
Rana Sanga, and of Sher Shah with Rao Maldeo. The domination of Rajasthan was also the means of an
end. Routes both to Gujarat and its sea-ports and to Malwa ran through it, and control over either of
them could not be secure without a minimum control over the states of Rajasthan.
The Mughals had established their rule over parts of Mewat in 1556, followed by Ajmer and Nagor. In
1562, when Akbar made his first visit to the tomb of Muinuddin Chishti at Ajmer, Raja Bhara Mal, the
ruler of Amber, had submitted. This was followed by the Mughal occupation of the powerful fort of
Merta, and for some time of Jodhpur when there was a disputed succession following the death of
Maldeo. Maldeo had nominated Chandrasen as his successor whereupon his elder brother, Ram
Chandra, had repaired to the Mughal court for help, and been reinstated. But Chandrasen had
recovered Jodhpur soon after.
This was the situation when, following the crushing of the Uzbek rebellion, Akbar decided to turn his
attention towards Rajasthan. The most powerful and prestigious kingdom in Rajasthan at the time was
undoubtedly Mewar. The fact that the Rana’s son, Sakat, had been in the Imperial camp at Dholpur
when Akbar asked him what service he would do if he attacked the Rana suggests that some
negotiations between the Rana and Akbar had been in progress though we have no idea of the nature of
these negotiations. Abul Fazl says that the Rana, proud of his steep mountains and strong castles, his
possessing abundant land and wealth, and number of devoted Rajputs, was not prepared to lower his
head of obedience before anyone, for ” none of his ancestors had bowed down and kissed the ground.”
It is obvious that what Abul Fazl is referring to is personal submission, something on which Akbar had
insisted even when, during the siege of Chittor, the Rajputs had offered to accept Mughal
suzerainty and to pay peshkash. The Rana, Udai Singh, had also offended Akbar by giving refuge to Baz
Bahadur, the ousted ruler of Malwa, and to the Mirzas after their flight from Sambhal.
The strength of the fort of Chittor was such that trying to starve the defenders by a long siege, and
sapping under the walls after making sabats or covered passages upto the walls were the only two
methods available to the besiegers. We are told that for the making of sabats and digging of mines,
about five thousand experts builders and carpenters and stone-masons were collected, but due to the
continual firing by the Rajputs, one or two hundred of them died everyday. This may explain in part
Akbar’s bitterness when he ordered a general massacre following the conquest of the fort after four
months of close siege when the Rajputs, after warding off many Mughal attacks, and the death of their
redoubtable warrior, Jaimal, had in desperation done jauhar and died fighting. We are told that in
addition to those who had sallied out, there were 8000 Rajputs inside the fort who died fighting, partly
in defence of their temple. There were also 40,000 peasants inside the fort who had been aiding them.
There was a general order of massacre and in all about 30,000 people were killed, though the skilled
marksmen who had been one of Akbar’s objects of revenge, escaped by a ruse. This was the last time
Akbar ordered such a slaughter. However, it cannot be justified, and only means that Akbar had not yet
shaken off the Central Asian tradition of barbarity to one’s defeated opponents.
The fall of Chittor (March 1568) was followed by the capture of Ranthambhor, as also of Kalinjar in
Bundelkhand. But more important, when Akbar was at Nagor (1570), rulers of important states in
Rajasthan—Marwar, Bikaner and jaisalmer accepted Mughal suzerainty and, in return, were allowed to
continue to rule over their states. They were granted mansabs and jagirs. Thus, Mewar was left alone to
uphold the flag of regional independence.
Akbar was now free to turn his attention to Gujarat. Since the death of Bahadur Shah, Gujarat had been
racked by succession disputes and efforts of nobles to put up their own nominees, real or fake, on the
throne. There had been growing dissidence which was made worse by the Mirzas who had seized
Broach, Baroda and Surat. The Portuguese were also on the look-out for expanding
their control over Gujarat and its ports. In this situation it was not possible for Akbar to allow a
strategically import area which was also rich in its handicrafts and agriculture producti on to go to rack
and ruin. According to Nizamuddin, it had been brought to the notice of Akbar that in Gujarat ” which
was arranged like a paradise,” the tyranny of the rulers of that country, and the refractoriness of the
group of men who had become rulers were giving rise to the desolation of the country and the ruin of
the people. However, before Akbar acted on his own, he was invited by Itimad Khan Habshi, then the
ruler at Ahmadabad, to intervene in order to put down anarchy in the country.
Towards the end of 1572, Akbar marched on Gujarat at the head of a large army by way of Ajmer, Merta
and Sirohi. On account of the support of the Habshi and Gujarati nobles, Akbar met no opposition in
occupying Ahmadabad. But he had to take action to expel the Mirzas from south Gujarat. In this
campaign, Akbar displayed great personal daring and energy. Learning that Ibrahim Hussain Mirza was
trying to escape, he attacked his strong detachment at Sarnal with merely forty men. Although he won a
victory, he could not prevent the Mirza from escaping. He then laid siege to the strong fort of Surat early
in 1573, and compelled it to surrender. This induced many of the local rajas to submit. The Portuguese
also came and made presents to the Emperor. Earlier, at Khambayat, Akbar had for the first time seen
the sea, the Sea of Oman (Arabian Sea), and sailed on it. According to a contemporary, Arif Qandhari, on
17 Shaban / 23rd December 1572, ” His Majesty boarded a fast moving boat and ordered that an
assembly of pleasure and enjoyment may be arranged, and he gave himself to a drinking bout there.”
After his success at Surat, Akbar appointed Khan-i-Azam Aziz Koka, a favourite who was his milk-brother,
as governor of Gujarat, and placed nobles in charge of the sarkars of Patan, Dholka, Broach and Baroda.
He then returned to Agra since the situation in the east demanded his attention.
Akbar’s administrative arrangements were remarkably similar to those adopted by Humayun during his
conquest of Gujarat. The situation following the departure of the emperor from the scene was also
remarkably similar—the various elements, the Abyssinian (Habshi) and Gujarati nobles, the Mirzas and
the Hindu rajas rose everywhere and joined hands to expel the Mughals. However, instead of retreating
as Askari had done, Aziz
Koka entrenchment himself at Ahmadabad. Akbar put off his plans for an eastern expedition, and
undertook another of his fantastic personal interventions. He left Fatehpur Sikri and reached
Ahmadabad in eleven days at the head of about 3000 troops. The Emperor’s presence demoralized the
opponents, and ensured a great victory. This broke the back of the opposition to the Mughal rule over
Gujarat, (1573), though sporadic resistance continued off and on for some time.
The conquest of Gujarat cleared the way for Akbar turning his attention to the affairs of the east. After
the death of Islam Shah, Bengal had become independent. After a confused struggle, Sulaiman Karrani
had come to power. The Karranis had large jagirs in Bihar and under them, the influence of the Bengal
king over Bihar had become strong once again. Thus, the city of Patna founded by Sher Shah, and
Hajipur on the other side of the Ganges were under the rule of the Afghan ruler of Bengal. Even the
powerful fort of Rohtas was held by the Bengal king. Hence, Akbar’s campaign to the east was aimed not
only at the conquest of Bang and Lakhnauti (north Bengal), but also, as Nizamuddin Ahmad says, ” the
country of Bihar” . The immediate cause of Akbar’s decision to send an expedition to the east was the
fact that unlike the earlier Bengal ruler who had kept a semblance of loyalty to the Mughal king by not
insisting on a separate khutba and sikka, Daud Khan, proud of his army of 40,000 well’ mounted cavalry,
1,40,000 infantry, 3,600 elephants, and a park of artillery said to consist of 20,000 guns and thousands
of war-boats, declared himself independent and had the khutba and sikka issued in his own name. It is
clear that under proper leadership, the Afghans of Bengal and Bihar could have faced Akbar with a
serious challenge. At first, Munim Khan, the governor of Jaunpur, was asked to take urgent steps to deal
with the situation. Munim Khan advanced on Patna and besieged it, but could make no impact on the
strongly entrenched Afghans. As soon as Akbar was freed from the Gujarat affairs, he advanced with a
large army and flotilla of boats. After the conquest of Hajipur and Patna, Akbar pursued Daud Khan into
Bengal. However the command was soon entrusted to Munim Khan, who was made governor of Bengal,
and Akbar returned to Agra. Here again, while like Humayun, Akbar considered the campaign against
Bengal and Bihar the be a combined operation, his management of the operation was in stark contrast to Humayun’
s—he first consolidated his position in Gujarat, and did not involve himself personally in the
campaigning in Bengal.
Although Munim Khan had concluded a treaty with Daud in March 1675 after defeating him in a well
contested battle at Tukaroi (district Balasore), Munim Khan’s death soon after at Gaur led to a renewed
outbreak of hostilities in which Daud reoccupied his old capital, Tanda. The Mughals made a shameful
retreat to Bihar. Akbar now appointed Hussain Quli Khan-i-Jahan as the new governor of Bengal, and in
another well contested battle, Daud Khan was defeated and killed (1576).
The Mughal victory over Daud Khan may be considered virtually the final act in the struggle against the
Afghans, although struggle with the Afghan rulers of Orissa, and with the powerfully entrenched Afghan
zamindars in the southern and eastern areas of Bengal continued sporadically till the reign of Jahangir.
Relations with the Rajputs—Growth of a Composite Ruling Class
- The policy of seeking a special relationship with the Rajputs matured under Akbar, and was one of the most abiding features of Mughal rule in India, even though the relationship came under strain later on.
- The relationship between local rulers and central authority had many ups and downs during the Sultanat period. The Turkish rulers were always on the look out to reduce the power and influence of the local rulers (rais) many of whom were Rajputs. In general, they demanded from them formal submission, a promise to provide military help when demanded, and payment of peshkash.
- Alauddin Khalji was the first ruler who postulated an active alliance with an autonomous raja, Ram Deo of Deogir. The raja was invited to Delhi after his submission, loaded with presents and not only was his kingdom returned to him, Navsari, a district in Gujarat, was given to him in gift. Alauddin also married his daughter, Jhatyapali, while his son and heir-apparent, Khirz Khan, was married to Dewal Devi, daughter of the former ruler of Gujarat. But this policy came to an end with the death of Ram Deo, followed by that of Alauddin Khalji and Khiz Khan.
- Bahlul Lodi and Sikandar Lodi tried to establish friendly relations with some of the Rajput rajas of the Gangetic doab and some of them were even given the position of amirs. This seems to have helped in establishing friendly relations between the Afghans and the Hindu rajas which persisted for a long time even after the Mughal conquest of India.
- After returning to India, Humayun embarked upon a policy of conciliating and winning over the zamindars — a term used in official documents to include the autonomous rajas, both Hindu and Muslim. According to Abul Fazl, when Humayun was at Delhi, ” in order to soothe the minds of the zamindars he entered into matrimonial relations with them” . Thus, in 1556, when Hasan Khan of Mewat, ” who was one of the great zamindars of India,” came and paid homage, he had two beautiful daughters, one of whom was married to Humayun, and the other to Bairam Khan.
- The attempt to establish special relations with the Rajputs was, thus, part of a broader policy towards the zamindars or the indigenous ruling sections in the country. According to Shaikh Fakhruddin Bhakkari who wrote in the middle of the 17th century, when Humayun was at the court of Shah Tahmasp, the ruler of Iran, the latter enquired from Humayun the causes of Mughal expulsion from India, and which class of people in India constitutes clans and were outstanding and brave. When informed that these were Rajputs and Afghans, he advised Humayun to ” rear the Rajputs” since ” without gaining control over the zamindars it is not possible to rule in Hind.” The author goes on to say that Humayun, at the approach of his death, advised Akbar that ” this qaum (the Rajputs) should be reared up because they are not given to transgression and disobedience but only obedience and service.”
- Thus, the Mughal desire to conciliate the zamindars, i.e. the indigenous ruling class of India, and the reputation of the Rajputs of loyalty and service formed the basis of their alliance with the Rajputs.
- The Rajputs had also made a favourable impression on Akbar when, in 1557, he was riding upon an elephant which had gone out of control, and everyone had fled away except a band of Rajputs under Bhara Mal, the ruler of the small principality of Amber, who had stood firm. The story of Akbar’s marriage with Bai Harkha, daughter of Raja Bhara Mal of Amber, at Sambhar on his way back from Ajmer where he had gone the first time to pray at the tomb of Muinuddin Chishti is well known. The background of this was that when Akbar was proceeding to Ajmer, Bhara Mal had approached Akbar that he was being harassed by Mirza Sharfuddin, the Mughal hakim of Mewat, on account of his conflict with his elder brother, Suja. Bhara Mal who had only a small following had agreed to pay peshkash, and given as hostage his son and two of his nephews, but Sharfuddin was not satisfied, and wanted to destroy him. Akbar insisted that the Raja should submit to him personally, and that a daughter of the raja should be married to him. Once this had been done, Akbar asked Sharfuddin, who was married to the emperor’s sister, not to interfere with the raja.
- There are many misconceptions about Akbar’s policy of establishing matrimonial relations with the Rajput rajas. In a feudalized polity, a personal relationship was considered a better guarantee of loyalty. However, in such a society marriages between royal houses was both a bond and a mark of submission. In the Allahabad pillar inscription of Samudragupta (5th Century A.D.), it is clearly mentioned that all the subordinate rajas were required to send a daughter to the Imperial house-hold. This attitude persisted, though the early Turkish rulers did not demand that the subordinate Hindu rajas establish matrimonial relations with them. However, in course of time, we see many instances of marriages between Muslim and Hindu ruling houses. Alauddin Khalji was married with with a daughter of Ram Deo, the ruler of Deogir. Firuz Shah Bahmani married the daughter of Deo Ray of Vijaynagar in 1406, the marriage being celebrated in a grand manner. Marriages between Rajputs rajas and other Muslim rulers can also be recorded from this time. Thus, in 1485, Raja Bhan of Idar married his daughter to Muhammad Shah, the ruler of Gujarat, for the sake of the restoration of his kingdom. Bhawani Das, a relation of Rana Rai Mal, gave his daughter as tribute to Abul Muzaffar Nasiruddin Shah of Malwa after his conquest of Chittor in 1503-04. She was well-treated and given the title of Rani Chittori. According to the Banki Dasri Khyat, Maldeo, the powerful ruler of Marwar, had married one of his daughter, Bai Kanaka, to Sultan Mahmud of Gujarat; another, Lal Bai, to Islam Shah Sur, and a third one, Ratnavati, to Haji Khan Pathan, a slave of Sher Shah who was the virtual ruler of Mewat. There were also marriages with the powerful Qaim Khani rulers of Nagor in Shekhawati who were Chauhan Rajputs but had become Muslim in the time of Firuz Tughlaq. Bhara Mal himself had given his eldest daughter in marriage to Haji Khan after he had invaded Amber. Around this time, Akbar married Rukmavati, a daughter of Tipu who was the daughter of Mano Guno Rohila, and who is called Maldeo’s patar (common law wife).
- It will be seen that most of these marriages were due to special circumstances, such as an invasion or procuring help against an enemy. Such marriages had not led to any stable relationship between the two sides. After his marriage with Bhara Mal’s daughter, Akbar emphasized in various ways his special relationships with the family. Thus, during the Uzbek rebellion, Bhagwant Das, the son of Bhara Mal, was constantly in attendance with him. Bhagwant Das was with him when, in 1562, in a somewhat foolhardy manner, Akbar attacked with a small escort the rebel village of Paraunkh in modern Etah district which, along with it, had eight villages (athgarh) which were notorious for their insolence, robbery, boldness and turbulence. Later, on a number of occasions, Bhagwant Das was assigned the responsibility of guarding the Imperial camp, including the royal ladies, a position which was given only to nobles who were related to the ruler, or enjoyed his close confidence.
- The birth of Salim from the Kachhawahi princess in 1569 filled Akbar with a sense of thanksgiving, and drew him closer to the Kachhawaha ruling house. Thus, in 1570, when Daniyal was born, he was sent to Amber to be brought up by the wife of Raja Bhara Mal. In 1572, when Akbar left for the Gujarat campaign, Bhara Mal, along with Abdullah Sultanpuri, was placed in charge of the capital, Agra, where all the royal ladies were living.
- Although Akbar had adopted a number of liberal measures— forbidding soldiers to enslave the women and children of rebellious villagers, remitting pilgrim taxes which ” amounted to krores,” and finally abolishing jizyah in 1564, his relations with the Rajputs deepened only after the fall of Chittor in 1568, followed by the capture of Ranthambhor. In 1570, when Akbar was at Nagor, Rai Kalyan Mal of Bikaner presented himself before Akbar along with his son, Rai Rai Singh. A daughter of Kalyan Mal’s brother, Kahan, was married to Akbar. Rawal Har Rai of Jaisalmer also submitted, and proposed that one of his daughter be married to the Emperor. Accordingly, Bhagwant Das was sent to Jaisalmer to escort the Rawal’s daughter. The kingdom of all these rajas were restored to them, and both Kalyan Mal and Rai Singh were admitted to the Imperial service. Chandrasen of Jodhpur also waited on Akbar and offered his submission, and apparently one of his daughter was married to Akbar at this time. But on account of the opposition of his elder brother, Ram Rai, and his younger brother, Uday Singh, Jodhpur which had been under Imperial control since 1563, was not restored to him. In consequence, there was a long drawn out war with Chandrasen during which the kingdom remained under Imperial control or khalisa.
- There is little reason to believe that these matrimonial alliances, and the earlier marriage of Bhara Mal’s daughter, were forced upon the Rajputs. It was more the force of circumstances, and a realization on the part of the rajas the benefits these marriages might confer on them. As Abul Fazl says, the rajas entering into such alliances were considered “distinguished among other zamindars” . Nor did Akbar treat such an alliance as a test of loyalty and submission. Thus, no matrimonial relations were established with the Hadas of Ranthambhor. Surjan Had a was allotted jagirs in Garh-Katanga, served in Gujarat and elsewhere and rose to the rank 2000. Again, when the rulers of Sirohi and Banswara submitted, no matrimonial relations were established with them.
- The evolution of Akbar’s Rajput policy can be divided into three main phases.
- During the first phase, which lasted till about 1572, the Rajput rajas who submitted to him were considered loyal allies. They were expected to render military service in or around their principalities, but not outside. Thus, Raja Bhara Mal, along with his son Bhagwant Das, was the constant companion of Akbar during the Uzbek rebellions, but there is no reference to his taking part in any military operations, though both Todar Mal and Rai Patr Das were actively involved in the operations. Nor was Man Singh required to take an active part in the siege operations against Chittor, though he was present in the Imperial camp throughout. Inside Rajasthan, when the Mughal forces besieged Merta, in 1562, a Kachhawaha contingent served on the side of the Mughals. When the Mughals besieged Jodhpur the following year, Ram Rai, the elder brother of Chandrasen, actively aided them. This was not unusual because during Mewar’s struggle with Malwa, many disgrubtled Rajput chiefs had fought on the side of the Khalji rulers of Malwa. Disaffected Khalji nobles had also sought refuge at the court of the Rana.
- The second phase of Akbar’s Rajputs policy may be dated from his Gujarat campaign in 1572. At the outset, Man Singh was appointed with a well-equipped army to chase Sher Khan Fuladi and his sons. Although the sons of Sher Khan Fuladi eluded Man Singh, he captured their baggage, and returned laden with booty, and Akbar praised him. A little later, when Akbar attacked Ibrahim Hussain Mirzas at Sarnal with a small force, Man Singh led the van, and Bhagwant Singh stood side by side with Akbar during the engagement in which the Raja’s son, Bhupat Rai, was killed. Akbar made the killing of Bhupat a personal issue. He took the unusual step of sending Bhagwant Das’s sister, who was evidently Salim’s mother, to Amber for the mourning. Later, he speared to death the captive, Shah Madad, foster-brother of Muhammad Husain Mirza, who had killed Bhupat.
- The Kachhawahas were not the only ones to whom Akbar showed favour, or who fought on behalf of the Mughal state during this period. Before leaving for the Gujarat campaign, Akbar had given Rai Rai Singh of Bikaner charge of Jodhpur and Sirohi, to guard against any incursions from the side of the Rana, and to keep the road to Gujarat open. Subsequently, when Ibrahim Mirza sneaked out of Gujarat and besieged Nagor, Rai Rai Singh and Ram Singh (of Jodhpur) came up with forced marches and drove him off, after fighting a well-contested battle. Rao Surjan Hada of Ranthambhor, and Raisal Darbari of Shaikhawati also played an active role in the Gujarat campaign.
- Thus, during this period, apart from being loyal allies, the Rajputs begin to emerge as the sword-arm of the empire. This point was further emphasized when in 1576, Man Singh was appointed to lead the Mughal army against Rana Pratap.
- The third phase of Akbar’s relationship with the Rajputs may be dated from 1578 when Raja Bhagwant Das and Man Singh arrived at the Imperial camp at Bhera in western Punjab in preparation for campaigns in the north-west including Kashmir. This development coincides with Akbar’s break with the orthodox clergy, the expulsion of the sadr Shaikh Abdun Nabi, and the issue of Mahzar by Akbar which gave him the right to choose between different schools of law upholding the sharia. Till this time, Akbar had not moved out of the orthodox framework so that an orthodox mullah like Badayuni could say that although Man Singh had been placed in charge of both Hindu and Muslim troops at Haldighati, it was a case of “a Hindu wields the sword of Islam.”
- In this the third and the last phase, the Rajputs emerge as partners in the kingdom, and a make-weight in the nobility against the others, especially the Turani nobles of whose loyalty Akbar was not certain following his break with the ulama.
- In the new context, the Rajputs were employed to fight even against Mirza Hakim, the emperor’s own half-brother. Soon after their arrival at Bhera, Bhagwant Das was asked to assist Saeed Khan, the governor of Punjab. It is possible that some administrative duties were also assigned to Bhagwant Das.
- In 1580, there was a wide-spread rebellion in the east in which nobles dissatisfied with some Imperial regulations were joined by a section of the orthodoxy clergy. They proclaimed Mirza Hakim as the ruler, and had the khutba read in his name. Mirza Hakim vvho had invaded the Punjab and besieged Lahore, had been led to believe that the issue of the Mahzar, and the importance given to the Rajputs had led to dissatisfaction against Akbar so that when faced with Mirza Hakim, the Iranis and Turanis would desert to him, and Akbar would be left alone with the Rajputs and the Shaikhzadas. As it was, Mirza Ha kim’s calculations proved totally incorrect. While Mirza Aziz Koka and Raja Todar Mal were sent to deal with the rebellion in the east, Akbar advanced on Lahore where Bhagwant Singh and Saeed Khan were defending the fort. Akbar’s army included trusted Rajput commanders. At his approach, Mirza Hakim retreated to Kabul. Akbar now decided to march to Kabul and asked Man Singh, Rai Rai Singh and others to cross the Indus. They inflicted a sharp defeat on Mirza Hakim. Akbar advanced to Kabul, but restored it to Mirza Hakim. However, great importance was given to the Rajputs in making defensive arrangements. Man Singh was placed in charge of the Indus region, and Bhagwant Singh was appointed governor of Lahore jointly with Saeed Khan (1581). A little later, Saeed Khan was transferred to Delhi, and Bhagwant Das remained the sole governor of Lahore (Jan 1583).
- Thus, the Rajputs not only emerged as dependable allies who could be used anywhere for fighting, even against princes of blood, they also began to the employed in tasks of governance. Simultaneously, personalties with the Rajputs rajas were further strengthened by the marriage of Salim with the daughter of Bhagwant Singh (1583). At the same time, Jodhpur which had remained under khalisa for a long time was conferred upon Mota Raja Udai Singh, a younger brother of Chandrasen. Udai Singh’s daughter, Jagat Gosain, was married to Salim. These marriages were made grand state occasions, with Akbar himself going in procession to the houses of the brides, and many Hindu practices followed. Daughters of the ruling houses of Bikaner and Jaisalmer were also married to Salim. Thus, Akbar wanted to bind his successor to his policy of alliance with the Rajputs. A little later, Daniyal was married to a daughter of Raimal, son of Rai Maldeo.
- In the remaining years of Akbar’s reign, the position of the Rajputs as partners in the kingdom and as sword-arm of the empire was strengthened further. In 1585-86, when two sipahsalars or subahdars were appointed to each subah, Rajputs were appointed, as joint-governors of four subahs — Lahore, Kabul, Agra and Ajmer. The most significant was the appointment of Kr. Man Singh and Raja Bhagwant Das to the two strategically important provinces of Kabul and Lahore. Rajputs were also appointed faujdars and commanders of forts. Later, Man Singh was appointed governor of Bihar and Bengal, and accorded the rank of 7000 which only one other noble, Mirza Aziz Koka, enjoyed. The Kachhawahas remained the most powerful section under Akbar. Thus, in the Ain-i-Akbari, prepared in 1593-94, out of the 27 Rajput nobles listed, 13 were Kachhawahas. Although other Rajputs did forge ahead — Rai Rai Singh of Bikaner was appointed governor of Lahore in 1590-91, and his son, Suraj Singh, was made the effective governor of Gujarat. But the excessive representation of the Kachhawahas in the service was only corrected when Jahangir ascended the throne.
- The Mughal-Rajput alliance was mutually beneficial. The alliance secured to the Mughals the services of the bravest warriors in India. The steadfast loyalty of the Rajputs was an important factor in the consolidation and further expansion of the Mughal empire. On the other hand, service in the Mughal empire enabled the Rajput rajas to serve in distant places far away from their homes, and to hold important administrative posts. This further raised their prestige and social status. Service with the Mughals was also financially rewarding. In addition to their holdings in Rajasthan, the Rajputs rajas were accorded jagirs outside Rajasthan in accordance with their mansabs. Thus, the Kachhawahas at first held jagirs in Gujarat and then in Punjab when Bhagwant Das and Man Singh were posted there. Later, they were granted jagirs in Bihar and Bengal when Man Singh was governor there. There is little doubt that these jagirs formed a valuable source of additional income to the rajas. While these jagirs were transferable like any other jagirs, the Rajput rajas were granted their own homelands as jagirs: these were called watan jagirs. They were not transferred during the life-time of a ruler, but increased as his mansab increased.
- The Rajput rajas were accorded broad autonomy within their own principalities, though they were expected not to levy prohibited taxes, such as rahdari or road tax. The Mughals were keen to see that rahdari was not levied in order to protect trade on the important trade-routes across Rajasthan to the sea-ports. They were also keen to promote the Mughal revenue system of measurement (zabt) to Rajasthan, but here they were less successful. The Rajputs had their own revenue-assessment called rekh, which was different from the Mughal assessment or jama.
- The Mughals claimed a kind of paramountcy which implied that the Rajput rajas did not raid each other’s territories, or try to resolve territorial disputes by resorting to war. Traditionally, there were a number of territorial disputes between the various Rajput states. Thus, the pargana of Pokharan was claimed by the Bhatis of Jaisalmer, and by the rulers of both Bikaner and Jodhpur. Akbar gave it to Mota Raja Udai Singh of Jodhpur but he could not take possessions of its due to the opposition of the Bhatis. Merta was in dispute between Jodhpur and Mewar. Merta tried to assert its independence from both, which the Mughals supported for some time.
- Another point of trouble in the various states were disputed successions. There was no tradition, either among the Hindus or the Muslim, of primogeniture, that is, of the eldest son succeeding a deceased ruler. Thus, dispute about succession between brothers can be traced back to the Mauryan, or even to the pre-Mauryan period. Tulsi Das, the famous Hindi poet who lived during Akbar’s time, declared that both scriptures and tradition accorded the right of tika i.e. choosing a successor to the ruler. Even this was not always accepted, and led to civil wars. As sovereign emperor, the Mughal ruler claimed the right of giving his concurrence to a succession. Thus, when Rao Maldeo died, Akbar did not accept his nominee, Chandrasen, the younger son, as a ruler of Marwar, but gave it to his elder brother, Rao Ram. After his death, it was given to his younger brother, Mota Raja Udai Singh. In between, Jodhpur had remained under Imperial control, or khalisa. In 1593, Raja Ramchandra, the ruler of Panna, died, followed by the death of his son, Balbhadra. The chief men of the country raised his minor son, Vikramajit, to the gaddi, without any reference to the Emperor. Akbar was annoyed. He sent Patr Das to occupy the country and its capital, and insisted that it must be surrendered according to rules (ain) before it was granted to anyone. Ultimately, in 1601, Vikramajit was restored to the gaddi. This attitude is reflected in Jahangir’s refusal in 1612 to accept Sur Singh as the ruler of Bikaner though he had been given the tika by his father, Rao Rai Singh. Jahangir at first gave the tika to Sur Singh’s brother, Dalpat Singh, then restored it to Sur Singh. Thus it was made clear that in the ultimate resort, the approval of the Emperor was necessary before succession could be considered legitimate. In other words, succession was a matter of Imperial grace, rather than right.
- ]The Mughal concept of paramountcy gave peace to the country, and established a kind of pax Mughalica which enabled peaceful development. It also enabled the Rajas to work in distant places without bothering about peace in their own dominions. But the right to regulate succession contained within it the seeds of conflict under a Mughal ruler whose bona fides were, for one reason or another, suspect. A policy of broad religious toleration was, undoubtedly, an important factor in building and maintaining this alliance. An erosion of such a policy would, therefore, create mutual tensions.
Relations with Mewar
- Akbar was able to resolve his relations with almost all the states of Rajasthan with the exception of Mewar. Because of its size and its heavily wooded, hilly terrain, Mewar was ideally situated to stand out for independence, unlike the other Rajput states. It was also conscious of its position as the leading state of Rajasthan, and its acknowledged leader. That is why it was the first to feel at Chittor the weight of the Mughal might. After the Mughal conquest of Gujarat, the need to secure Mughal communications across the Mewar territories became even greater.
- In 1572, when Maharana Pratap succeeded to the gaddi of Mewar, a series of diplomatic embassies were sent by Akbar to solve the outstanding issues with the Maharana. The first of these embassies was led by Jalal Khan Qurchi, a favourite of Akbar. This was followed by Raja Man Singh. Man Singh was received by the Rana in his characteristic courteous manner. The story that the Rana insulted him on account of his marriage relationship with Akbar is a later concoction. However, Man Singh’s visit did not yield any diplomatic results, the Rana refusing to visit Akbar’s darbar. However, the next visit by Raja Bhagwant Das had greater success. The Rana put on the robe sent by Akbar, and the Rana’s son, Amar Singh, accompanied Bhagwant Das to the Mughal capital. However, no a greement could be arrived at because the Rana refused Akbar’s insistence on his personal submission. There may also have been some differences between the two regarding Chittor. A final visit by Todar Mal also failed to resolve the issues.
- Negotiations having broken down, all out war between Mewar and the Mughals was inescapable. However, Akbar gave his attention first to the conquest of Bihar and Bengal. In the meantime, he created a new machinery of administration, and began his quest for seeking a unity behind the multiplicity, first of sects within Islam, and then of all religions. He also gave attention to the unrest created within Marwar due to the activities of Chandrasen from his headquarters at Siwana. Chandrasen was relentlessly hunted from place to place, finally seeking shelter in Mewar. The powerful fort of Siwana was also captured (1575). Akbar then turned towards Mewar.
- Early in 1576, Akbar moved to Ajmer, and deputed Raja Man Singh with a force of 5000 consisting of Mughal and Rajput warriors to lead a campaign against Rana Pratap. In anticipation of such a move, the Rana had devastated the entire region upto Chittor so that the Mughal forces could get no food or fodder. He had also fortified the passes leading up to the hills. The Rana advanced with a force of 3000 from his capital at Kumbhalgarh, and took a position near Haldighati, at the entrance of the defile leading to Kumbhalgarh. Apart from a contingent of Afghans under Hakim Khan Sur, there was also a small contingent of Bhils whom the Rana had befriended, and whose help was invaluable to him in the days to come.
- The battle of Haldighati (18 Feb. 1576) was mainly fought in the traditional manner between cavalrymen and elephants, since the Mughals found it difficult to transport any artillery, except light artillery over the rough terrain. The Rana, it seems, had no firearms, either because he disdained them, or because he lacked the means to manufacture or procure them. In the traditional fight, the Rajputs were at an advantage. The impetuosity of their attack led to the crumbling of the Mughal left and right wings, and put serious pressure on their centre till Mughal reserves, and a rumour of Akbar’s arrival turned the tide.
- The bravery of the Rajputs, the heat, and the fear of ambush in the hills prevented pursuit, and enabled the Rana to retreat into the hills in order to continue the fight. Thus, the battle failed to break the existing stalemate.
- In the battle the Rana was supported in the main by contingents drawn from his subordinates, a notable exception being Ram Shah, an ex-ruler of Gwaliyar and his sons, and an Afghan contingent led by Hakim Sur which played a distinctive role. The Mughal forces were commanded by Man Singh. With both the Hindus and the Muslims divided, the battle of Haldighati can scarcely be considered a struggle between Hindus and Muslims. Nor can it be considered a struggle for Rajput independence, influential sections of the Rajputs already having cast their lot with the Mughals. The struggle can be regarded at best as an assertion of the principle of local independence. Sentiments of local and regional patriotism were strong in India during the 16th century and could always be buttressed by appeal to tradition and custom. However, such a slogan could not be carried very far. The experience of the Rajputs states was that lacking a regionally or nationally dominant power, Rajasthan was always prone to internecine warfare, with its attendant consequences.
- Akbar followed up the battle of Haldighati by coming back to Ajmer, and personally leading the campaign against Rana Pratap. In the process, Goganda, Udaipur and Kumbhalmir were occupied, forcing the Rana deeper into the mountainous tract of south Mewar. Mughal pressure was also exerted upon the Afghan chief of Jalor, and the Rajput chiefs of Idar, Sirohi, Banswara, Dungapur and Bundi. These states, situated on the borders of Mewar with Gujarat and Malwa, had traditionally acknowledged the supremacy of whoever was the dominant power in the region, despite close marriage and clan ties with Mewar. The rulers of these states had no option but to submit. An expedition was sent to Bundi where Duda, the elder son of Rao Surjan Hada, in league with Rana Pratap, had established his control over Bundi and adjacent areas. Both Surjan Hada and Bhoj, the father and brother respectively of Duda, took part in the campaign. After great slaughter, Duda escaped into the hills, and Bundi was conferred upon Bhoj.
- Thus, Rana Pratap was isolated. Although the Rana conti-nued to wage a valiant, unequal fight against superior Mughal forces which were sent against him, and performed feats of valour under trying circumstances, he was marginalized in Rajput affairs. The Mughal pressure on Mewar relaxed after 1579, following rebellion in Bengal and Bihar, and Mirza Hakim’s incursion into the Punjab. In 1585, Akbar moved to Lahore, and remained there for the next twelve years, watching the situation in the north-west. No Mughal expedition was sent against Rana Pratap during this period. Taking advantage of the situation, Rana Pratap recovered many of his territories, including Kumbhalgarh and the areas near Chittor. But he could not recover Chittor itself. During the period, he built a new capital, Chavand, near modern Dungarpur. He died in 1597 at the young age of 51, due to an internal injury incurred by him while trying to draw a stiff bow.
- It is difficult to say whether a more relaxed policy on the part of Akbar by not insisting on personal submission by the Rana would have been able to avert the blood-shed and human misery which took place during this period. By the time Rana Pratap died, the Mughal empire had been consolidated and brought under strict centralized control. The Rajputs too, had become firm allies and partners in the kingdom. Hence, Akbar could have adopted a more flexible policy about personal submission. However, both in the case of Kashmir, and Sindh which was being ruled by a Timurid, Mirza Jani Beg, Akbar continued to insist on personal submission, and sent armies to conquer them when the rulers refused to do so.
- Rana Pratap was succeeded by his son, Amar Singh, A series of expeditions were sent by Akbar against Rana Amar Singh between 1598 and 1605. Prince Salim was sent against the Rana in 1599, but achieved little. He was again deputed for the purpose in 1603, but he had no heart in the enterprise.
- After his accession, Jahangir took up the matter more energetically. Successive campaigns were lead by Prince Parvez, Mahabat Khan, and Abdullah Khan, but could not make any impression on the Rana. Hence, in 1613, Jahangir arrived at Ajmer to direct the campaign personally. A large army was appointed under Prince Khurram to invade the hilly areas of Mewar. The relentless Mughal pressure, the heavy toll of life among the Rajputs, the depopulation of the country and the ruination of agriculture at last produced their effect. The Mewar sardars pressed for peace and opened negotiations with the Mughals through Prince Khurram. The Rana reluctantly gave his consent. The mild and statesman-like attitude adopted by Jahangir facilitated an agreement. Earlier, when he had sent an expedition against the Rana under the command of Parvez, he had told him: ” If the Rana and his eldest son who is called Karan should come and wait upon you, and he proposes service and obedience, you should not do any harm in this country”. He authorised Prince Khurram to negotiate with the Rana to whom he sent a most gracious farman impressed with his hand.
- The Rana came and waited upon Khurram, and deputed his son, Karan Singh, to wait upon Jahangir at Ajmer. In order to safeguard the Rana’s prestige, Jahangir did not insist upon his personal submission—a concession which Akbar had been unwilling to make. Karan Singh was accorded a very cordial reception and was loaded with gifts. He was accorded the mansab of 5000 zat, 5000 sarwar, and granted a jagir which included the pargana of Ratlam in Malwa, Phulia, Banswara, etc. As a mansabdar, Karan Singh was to serve the Mughal Emperor with a contingent of 1500 horsemen. Sagar, the son of Rana Udai Singh, who had joined Akbar during the rule of Rana Pratap, and granted the title of Rana and installed at Chittor by Jahangir, was set aside, and all the paraganas of Mewar, including Chittor were restored to the Rana. The principalities of Dungarpur, Banswara, etc. which had been granted an independent status in the time of Akbar were also placed once again under the overlordship of the Rana. The jama of all these territories was reckoned at a little over eighty crore dams (Rupees two crores), of which the tribute payable by Dungarpur, Banswara, etc., amounted to fifty lakh dams. The jagir granted to Kunwar Karan Singh was in addition to the territories belonging to the Rana.
- Jahangir established a tradition that the Rana of Mewar would be exempted from personal attendance and service at the Mughal Court, though it was insisted upon that a son or a brother of the Rana would wait upon the Emperor and serve him. Thus, Prince Bhim, the younger son of Rana Amar Singh, served with Khurram in the Deccan. Nor did Jahangir insist upon the Rana entering into matrimonial relations with the Mughal Emperor. Both these traditions were maintained throughout the Mughal rule. But it may be doubted if any formal treaty was concluded between the Mughals and the rulers of Mewar to the effect.
- The only condition Jahangir imposed upon the Rana was that the walls of Chittor fort would never be repaired. The Chittor fort was an extremely powerful bastion, and the Mughals were apparently reluctant to see it restored to a state in which it might once again be used to defy Mughal authority. Perhaps, they also regarded its ruined battlements as a symbol of Mughal victory over Mewar’s claim of independence.
- Jahangir continued Akbar’s policy of establishing personal relations with the Rajput rajas by entering into matrimonial relations with them. He had already married a Kachchawaha princess, Mani Bai, the daughter of Raja Bhagwant Das; and a Jodhpur princess, the daughter of Mota Raja Udai Singh, in Akbar’s life time (1585). Princesses from Bikaner and Jaisalmer had also been married to him. After his accession, he contracted a number of other marriages with Rajput ruling houses, including one with the daughter of Ram Chand Bundela and another with the daughter of Jagat Singh Kachchawaha, the eldest son of Raja Man Singh. All these marriages were contracted while Mewar still defied the Mughals. Once Mewar had submitted and the alliance with the Rajputs had attained a measure of stability, matrimonial relations between the Mughals and the leading Rajput states became rare.
Emergence of a Composite Ruling Class
- The induction of the Rajputs and other Hindus into the Imperial service, and according them a status of equality with the others was a big step in the creation of a composite ruling class. An analysis of the list of nobles holding ranks of 500 and above given in the Ain-i-Akbari shows that between 1575 and 1595, the Hindus numbered 30 out of a total of 184, or about one-sixth of the total. Out of the 30 Hindus, the Rajputs numbered 27. However, these figures are not a true index of the significance of the Rajputs and other Hindus in the Imperial service.
- Badayuni who was one of those who was unhappy at this development and harps on the role of Akbar’s Rajput wives in shaping his liberal religious policy, says: “… of Hindu infidels who are indispensable, and of whom half the army, and country, will soon consist, and of whom there is not among the Mughals and Hindustanis a quam so powerful, he (Akbar) could not have enough.“
- As has been noted, Akbar did not give service only to powerful rajas and zamindars. He opened the service to talent and in consequence many gifted and capable men, both Hindu and Muslim, drawn from an ordinary background, were taken into service, and some of them rose to high positions. Thus, among the Rajputs there were many who were subordinate sardars of the various rajas, but who attracted Akbar’s eye and were taken into Imperial service. Among these may be mentioned Raisal Darbari, Rai Manohar, Bedi Chand, Lunkaran Kachawaha etc. An even more significant section consisted of the revenue-experts many of whom belonged to the Khatri and Kayastha castes among the Hindus. These sections had for long worked at the lower level in the revenue affairs of the state, and also acted as financial advisors (peshkars) in the houses of a large number of nobles. Their induction into the higher echelons of the revenue-department was a recent phenomenon. Among these may be mentioned Todar Mal who had worked in the revenue-department under Sher Shah Sur. Under Akbar, he not only took part in many military campaigns against the Uzbek nobles and in Gujarat, he played a leading role in the Bengal expedition. He rose to the position of wazir and carried out important reforms in the revenue system. Another was Rai Patr Das, also a khatri, who was diwan of Bihar and Kabul subahs, was given the title of Raja Bikramajit, and rose to the mansab of 5000. The case of Birbal, a close associate of Akbar, is well known. Another was Rai Purushottam, a brahman, who was appointed as the bakhshi.
- When the subahs were organized, of the diwans in the twelve subahs, eight were khatris and kayasthas. Thus, apart from including Rajput and other Hindu rajas or zamindars, into the service, a second channel of promotion, the administrative channel was opened up. This also benefited a section of Indian Muslims.
- During the times of Babur, Hindustanis, mainly Afghans had been inducted into the Imperial service. Many of the Afghans dropped out, particularly after the conflict with Humayun. After their return to India, the Mughals inducted into the service two sections of Hindustanis or Indian Muslims. These were, first, the Saiyads of Barha, famed for their military valour, who are supposed to have come to India from Arabia during the Sultanat period. On account of their reckless bravery, the Barhas earned under Akbar the right to serve in the vanguard of the army. But none of them rose to high positions. A second section of the Hindustanis were the Shaikhzadas. These included those who belonged to learned families or Shaikhs who had been settled in India for long. Shaikh Gadai, a favourite of Bairam Khan, was one of these. Badayuni, himself a mullah, held an unfavourable view of these sections, calling them time servers and hypocrites. Most of these lives on madadd-i-maash or revenue-free grants. A few were zamindars. The Shaikhzadas were an influential section in society, and after his break with the Uzbek nobles, Akbar seems to have made special efforts to conciliate them, and induct them into Imperial service.
- Another section of the Hindustanis were the Kambohs. These, apparently, were a clan or tribe, members of which are also found among the Hindus and Sikhs of Punjab. The most prominent person among the Kambohs who were famous for their sagacity and quickness of apprehension was Shahbaz Khan who played a prominent role in many expeditions, especially against Rana Pratap, and in Bengal. As Mir Bakhshi he applied the dagh system very rigidly. He was known for his piety and his wealth.
- From the time of jahangir the Afghans began to forge ahead. Their numbers grew as the Mughals expanded their control over the Deccan. The Marathas also began to be recruited into the service from that time. The development of a composite nobility implied a diminution in the domination of the Turani nobles in the service. As we have seen, after the rebellion of the Uzbeks, more Iranis, especially from Khurasan, i.e. eastern Iran begin to be induced into the nobility. They were considered more suitable for administrative posts than the Turanis.
- A recent study shows that between 1575 and 1595, out of a total 184 nobles holding ranks of 500 zat and above, the Turanis numbered 64 (34.78%), the Iranis 47 (25.54%), the Hindustanis 34 (18.48%), and the Rajputs and other Hindus 30 (16.30%). The background of the remaining 9 is not known.
- From the time of Akbar an attempt was also made to break clan-tribal ties. Thus, in the army, a rule was made that the military contingents of the nobles should be mixed ones, consisting of Mughals, Hindustanis and Rajputs. However, in view of exigencies, Mughal and Rajput nobles were allowed to have contingents consisting exclusively of Mughals and Rajputs. Thus, under Akbar, a nobility in which there was a balance between ethnic and religious groups, and an army which was relatively free of narrow clan-tribal loyalties came into being. The basis of this was the concept which prevailed from the time of Nizamul Mulk’s Siyasat Nama (10th century), that no ethnic group should constitute a preponderant section in the nobility or army so that the ruler was not dependent on any one of them. At that time, the ruling sections consisted of Muslims only. Akbar developed this concept further by including the Hindus, especially the Rajputs in the nobility and the army so that they could act as a counter-weight to the others. A balanced nobility including different ethnic and religious groups could have paved the way for an integrated ruling class. But for that an integrated religious, cultural and political outlook was necessary.
- There were problems of the emergence of such an integrated outlook within the framework of an ethnically balanced, composite ruling class.
Last Phase of Akbar’s Reign—Rebellions and further Expansion of the Empire
- We have seen how the empire grew rapidly upto 1576. Thereafter there was a phase of consolidation. However, the phase from 1580 onwards saw a serious rebellion in the east; strife in Bengal, Bihar, Rajasthan and the North-west; and expansion of the empire in the east, west and the Deccan. Finally, there was the rebellion of Salim, the favourite son and future successor of Akbar.
- Early in 1580, there was a serious rebellion by the nobles posted in Bengal. This rebellion may be considered the last attempt of the nobles to stop and, if possible, reverse the process of centralization of power in hands of the monarchy and, by implication, of the officials of the central government whose power and influence had grown apace after the crushing of the Uzbek rebellion in 1567. Thus, the system of branding of horses (dagh) and other animals introduced in 1574, and the insistence of the periodic review of the dagh and of the quality of the horses employed by the nobles had caused deep resentment. On account of the Bengal campaign against the Afghans, these regulations had not been strictly enforced. After the end of the rebellion, Rai Purushottam and Mulla Muhammad Yazdi were sent to set things in order. They behaved in a harsh and untactful manner, demanding to see old accounts. This was compounded by the intrigues of some agents of Mirza Hakim who tried to incite the nobles.
- The mullahs were also discontented because many of them had lost their revenue-free lands or seen them reduced. The qazi of Jaunpur issued a ruling (fatwa) ” insisting on the duty of taking the field and rebellion against the Emperor” because ” the Emperor has in his dominions made encroachments on the grant lands belonging to us and to God.”
- The final straw was when the allowance (bhatta) given for service in Bengal and Bihar was reduced to half or less. The rebellion engulfed both Bengal and Bihar where the rebels went so far as to read the khutba in the name of Mirza Hakim. Akbar took energetic steps to curb the rebellion, and also introduced some conciliatory measures. The rebellion had been largely brought under control by Mirza Aziz Koka and Todar Mal by the time Mirza Hakim invaded Punjab. Even at the height of the Bengal-Bihar rebellion, his invasion would have hardly made any difference. Akbar had remained in command at Agra with a large army, and Mirza Hakim, who was known to be a drunkard and a paltroon who had lost Kabul a number of times earlier, could hardly have stood up to Akbar. This, perhaps, was the reason why, after Mirza Hakim’s retreat from Lahore, and the advance of Mughal armies to Kabul, Akbar restored it to Mirza Hakim. Also, since the rebellion in the east had not yet ended, he had no desire to extend his commitments.
- The next phase of the expansion of the empire in the north-west took place after the rise of Abdullah Uzbek who captured Badakhshan in 1584, ousting the Timurids. Afraid of an Uzbek attack on Kabul, Mirza Hakim and the ousted Timurid prince from Badakhshan, Mirza Sulaiman, appealed to Akbar for help. Before Akbar could do anything, Mirza Hakim died from excessive drinking (1585). Akbar instructed Man Singh who was in charge of the frontier regions, to advance to Kabul and occupy it. To coordinate the affairs, Akbar himself advanced upto the Indus and camped at Attack, and appointed Man Singh as governor of Kabul.
- Simultaneously, energetic steps were taken to keep the Khybar pass open from the Afghan tribesmen who had risen in rebellion. This entailed a series of expeditions in an inhospitable region. It was in one of these operations that Akbar’s favourite, Birbal, who had rashly advanced too far into the mountain defiles, was surrounded and killed. Akbar was grief-stricken, but it made him even more determined to quell the Afghan tribesmen. This was done but the process was slow and painstaking.
- In 1586, Akbar decided to conquer Kashmir, the local ruler, Yaqub Khan, who had s ubmitted to Akbar, having refused to come and pay personal homage. After an initial invasion by Raja Bhagwant Das had been repulsed, the task was completed by Qasim Khan (1587). Soon after, many hill rajas of Jammu, as well as Ladakh and Baltistan (called Tibet Khurd or small, and Tibet Buzarg or big), submitted. Akbar made his first visit to Kashmir in 1589.
- Soon afterwards, in 1590, Akbar sent a force to capture lower Sindh, upper Sindh with its capital at Bhakkar being already under Mughal control. The conquest of lower Sindh was necessary for opening up the trade route from Qandahar to Multan and down the river Indus to the sea.
- Meanwhile, some of the areas in North India, such as Baluchistan which had remained outside Imperial control were also subdued.
- The final act was the capture of Qandahar. This gave to the Mughal a scientific, more defensible frontier. In the west, Kathiawar was conquered.
- ]Man Singh was transferred from Kabul to Bihar in 1587. He adopted a forward policy and conquered Orissa, as also Dacca in East Bengal which was under Afghan control. Cooch Bihar was also forced to accept Mughal suzerainty. Having thus rounded off Mughal conquests in North India, Akbar turned towards the Deccan (Mughal relations with the Deccan is dealt in a separate chapter).
- The last year of Akbar’s reign were clouded by the rebellion of his son and chosen successor, Salim. Though Akbar was too well settled to be shaken, it raised once again the problem of succession which progressively worsened as Mughal rule itself became firmer, and struck roots in the soil.