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Akbar: Conquest and consolidation of the Empire: Part II

Conquest and Consolidation of the Empire: Part II

  • After overcoming initial problems and consolidating his hold on the throne, Akbar started a policy of extending Mughal territories.
  • Any policy of expansion meant conflict with various political powers spread in different parts of the country.
    • Rajputs had major concentration in Rajputana.
    • Afghans held political control mainly in Gujarat, Bihar and Bengal.
    • In Deccan and South India, the major states were Khandesh, Ahmednagar, Bijapur, Golkonda and other southern kingdoms.
    • In the North-west some tribes held their sway.
    • Kabul and Qandahar, though held by Mughal factions, were opposed to Akbar.
  • Akbar through a systematic policy started the task of expanding his Empire and the major expansion of Mughal Empire took place during the reign of Akbar.
    • During the reigns of his successors (Jahangir, Shahjahan and Aurangzeb), very little was added in terms of territory.
    • The main additions in the later period were made during Aurangzeb’s reign in South India and North-East (Assam).
  • 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 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.
    • His success was also 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.

North and Central India:

  • The first expedition was sent to capture Gawaliar and Jaunpur in 1559-60.
  • After a brief war, Ram Shah surrendered the Gwaliar fort.
  • Khan Zaman was sent to Jaunpur ruled by Afghans who were defeated easily and it was annexed to the Mughal Empire.
  • Malwa in central India was ruled by Baz Bahadur.
    • Adham Khan and others led the expedition against Malwa.
    • Baz Bahadur was defeated and fled towards Burhanpur.
  • Next, Garh Katanga or Gondwana, an independent state in central India ruled by Rani Durgawati, widow of Dalpat Shah, was conquered in 1564.
    • Later, in 1567, Akbar handed over the kingdom to Chandra Shah, the brother of Dalpat Shah.
  • During this period Akbar had to face a series of revolts in central India.
    • Abdulah Khan Uzbeg was the leader of the revolt. He was joined by a number of Uzbegs.
    • Khan Zaman and Asaf Khan also rebelled.
    • Akbar with the help of Munim Khan succeeded in suppressing them and consolidated his position.
  • A long conflict with nobility, which had started after the dismissal of Bairam Khan (1560), now came to an end.
  • Akbar through his diplomatic skills, organisational capabilities and the help of some trusted friends tackled this serious crisis.

Western India:

  • Conquest of Rajputana:
    • Akbar realised that to have a stable Empire, he must subjugate the large tracts under Rajput kings in the neighbouring region of Rajputana.
    • A policy was devised not only to conquer these areas but turn their rulers into allies. (Akbar’s Rajput Policy has been given in separate topic)
    • Akbar with the exception of Chittor’s Rana Pratap, managed to secure the allegiance of all the Rajput kingdoms.
    • A large number of them Were absorbed in Mughal nobility and helped Akbar in expanding and consolidating the Mughal Empire.
  • Conquest of Gujarat:
    • Having consolidated his position in Central India and Rajputana, Akbar turned towards Gujarat in 1572.
    • After Humayun’s withdrawal, Gujarat was no longer a unified kingdom. There were various warring principalities.
    • Gujarat, apart from being a fertile region, had a number of busy ports and thriving commercial centres.
    • Sultan Muzaffar Shah III was the nominal king claiming overlordship over 7 warring principalities.
    • One of the princes, Itimad Khan, had invited Akbar to come and conquer it.
    • Akbar himself marched to Ahmedabad. The town was captured without any serious resistance.
    • Surat with a strong fortress offered some resistance but was also captured.
    • In a short time most of the principalities of Gujarat were subdued.
    • Akbar organised Gujarat into a province and placed it under Mirza Aziz Koka and returned to capital.
    • Within six months various rebellious groups came together and revolted against the Mughal rule. The leaders of rebellion were Ikhtiyarul Mulk and Mohammad Husain Mirza.
      • The Mughal governor had to cede a number of territories.
    • On receiving the news of rebellion in Agra, Akbar started for Ahmedabad. This march is considered as one of the most outstanding feats of Akbar. Akbar along with a small force reached Gujarat within 10 days and suppressed the rebellion.
    • For almost a decade there was peace in Gujarat.
    • Meanwhile; Muzaffar III escaped from captivity and took refuge in Junagadh. After 1583 he tried to organise a few rebellions.

Eastern India:

  • Ever since the defeat of Humayun at the hands of Sher Shah, Bengal and Bihar were governed by Afghans.
  • In 1564, Sulaiman Karrani the governor of Bihar, brought Bengal also under his rule.
    • Sulaiman realizing the growing strength of Akbar had acknowledged the overlordship of the Mughals.
    • He used to send presents to Akbar.
    • After his death in 1572, his younger son Daud came to occupy his throne.
  • Daud refused to acknowledge Mughal suzerainty and got engaged in conflict with the Mughal governor of Jaunpur.
    • In 1574, Akbar along with Mun’im Khan Khan-i Khanan marched towards Bihar.
    • In a short time, Hajipur and Patna were captured and Daud fled towards Garhi.
    • After a brief stay Akbar returned. Mun’im Khan and Raja Todar Mal continued to chase Daud.
    • He was finally killed by the Mughal forces under Khan-i Jahan and Gaur (Bengal) was taken.
    • This ended the in independent rule of Bengal in 1576 which had lasted with few interruptions, for almost two centuries.
  • Parts of Orissa were still under some Afghan Chiefs. Around 1592, Mansingh brought the whole of Orissa under the Mughal rule.

Rebellions of 1581:

  • According to V.A. Smith, “The year 1581 may be regarded as the most critical time in the reign of Akbar, if his early struggle to consolidate his power be not taken into account.”
  • After the conflict of nobility which had lasted till 1567, now again serious conflicts came to the surface in Bengal, Bihar, Gujarat and in the north-west.
  • Reasons:
    • At the root was the discomfort of Afghans who were overthrown everywhere by the Mughals.
    • Apart from this, Akbar’s policy of strict administration of jagirs was also responsible for this.
      • By this new policy the jagirdars were asked to submit the accounts of their jagirs and a cut was enforced in military expenditure.
  • Bengal and Bihar:
    • The governor of Bengal enforced these regulations ruthlessly, giving rise to revolt.
    • Soon the rebellion spread to Bihar.
    • Masum Khan Kabuli, Roshan Beg, Mirza Sharfuddin and Arab Bahadur were the main leaders of rebels.
    • Muzaffer Khan, Rai Purshottam and other imperial officers tried to crush the rebellion but failed.
    • Akbar immediately sent a large force under Raja Todar Mal and Shaikh Farid Bakshi. A little later Aziz Koka and Shahbaz Khan were also sent to help Todar Mal.
  • North-west:
    • Meanwhile, the rebels declared Akbar’s brother Hakim Mirza, who was in Kabul, as their king. The Mughal forces crushed the rebellion in Bihar, Bengal and adjoining regions.
    • A few rebel leaders escaped and took shelter in the forest region of Bengal.
    • Mirza Hakim, to put greater pressure on Akbar, attacked Lahore. Akbar also marched towards Lahore.
      • Hakim Mirza, after hearing the news of Akbar’s march, immediately retreated.
    • Akbar after organising the defence of North West frontier, Akbar also marched towards Kabul.
    • By the time he reached there Hakim Mirza had left Kabul and Akbar occupied it.
    • Akbar gave the charge of Kabul to his sister Bakhtunnisa Begum and left for Agra (1581).
    • After , some time, Mirza Hakim came back and continued to rule in his sister’s name. Mirza Hakim died after four years and Raja Man Singh was appointed governor of Kabul.
  • Gujarat:
    • Gujarat also witnessed some rebellion at around the same time when Bihar, Bengal and North-West regions were in trouble.
    • Here the ex-ruler Muzaffar Shah escaped from captivity and organised a small force. He started attacking the Mughal territories in Gujarat.
    • I’timad Khan was deputed as governor of Gujarat. Nizamuddin Ahmed in the capacity of bakshi helped him in his operations against the rebels.
    • In 1584 Muzaffar Shah was defeated at Ahmedabad.
      • He escaped towards the Kutch region. Nizamuddin Ahmed followed him there also.
    • In the whole of Kutch region a number of forts were erected and Mughal officers were appointed.
    • Muzaffar kept brewing some trouble in that region till 1591-92 when he was finally captured.

Conquests in the North-West:

  • After the death of Hakim Mirza, Kabul was annexed and given to Raja Man Singh in jagir.
  • At around the same time, Akbar decided to settle the various rebellions in fhe North-West Frontier region and conquer new areas.
  • Suppression of the Roshanais:
    • The first to attract Akbar’s attention was the Roshanai movement.
    • Roshanai was a sect established by a solider who was called Pir Roshanai in the frontier region.
      • He had a large following.
      • After his death his son Jalala became the head of the sect.
    • The Roshanais rebelled against the Mughals and cut the road between Kabul and Hindustan.
    • Akbar appointed Zain Khan as commander of a strong force to surpress the Roshanais and establish Mugbal control in the region.
    • Sayid Khan Gakhar and Raja Birbal were also sent with separate forces to assist Zain Khan.
      • In one of the operations Birbal was killed with most of his forces.
    • Subsequently, Zain Khan was also defeated but he could survive to reach Akbar at the fort of Atak.
    • Akbar was greatly shocked by the death of Birbal, one of his most favourite companions.
    • Akbar appointed Raja Todar Mal with strong force to capture the region. Raja Man Singh was also asked to help in the task.
    • The combined efforts of the two yielded success and the Roshanais were defeated.
  • Conquest of Kashmir:
    • Akbar for a long time had his eyes set on conquering Kashmir.
    • While camping in Atak, he decided to despatch an army for the conquest of Kashmir under Raja Bhagwan Das and Shah Quli Mahram.
    • Yusuf Khan, the king of Kashmir, was defeated and he accepted suzerainty of Mughals.
    • Akbar wanted to annex Kashmir. Yusuf s son Yaqub along with a few amirs also decided to oppose the Mughals and waged war.
    • But some dissensions set in the Kashmiri forces.
    • Finally, the Mughals emerged victorious and Kashmir was annexed to the Mughal Empire in 1586.
  • Conquest of Thatta:
    • Another region in the North-West which was still independent was Thatta in Sindh.
    • Akbar appointed Khan-i-Khanan as governor of Multan and asked him to conquer Sindh and subdue Bilochis in 1590.
    • Thatta was annexed and placed under the governor of Multan as a sarkar in that suba.
    • The Mughal forces continued the suppression of Bilochis in the adjoining regions.
    • Finally, by the year 1595, the complete supremacy of Mughals over North-West region was established.

Deccan and South:

  • Babar could not establish any contact with Deccan because of his pre-occupations in the North. Still, his conquest of Chanderi in 1528 had brought the Mugllal empire close to the northern confines of Malwa.
    • Humayun also could not find enough time because of his involvement in Gujarat, Bihar and Bengal to devote himself in the Deccan affairs in spite of repeated appeals from Burhan Nizam Shah I.
    • In this way, Akbar was the first Mughal emperor who wished to extend the Mughal suzerainty over the Deccan states.
  • Akbar had started taking interest in Deccan states of Ahmednagar, Bijapur and Golkonda after the conquest of Gujarat and Malwa.
  • Motives:
    • Akbar wanted the Deccan rulers to accept his overlordship.
    • It was during the campaigns in Gujarat during 1572-73 that Akbar, after being fully secured in the North, made up his mind for the conquest of the Deccan states because the rebels, driven out of Gujarat, used to take refuge in Khandesh, Ahmednagar and Bijapur.
    • Rights of overlordship:
      • Moreover, with the conquest of Gujarat, Akbar wished to assume the rights which the previous rulers of Gujarat had enjoyed in relation to the Deccan states, i.e. the rights of overlordship.
      • Since 1417, the Deccan states had acknowledged the supremacy of the Sultans of Gujarat, had read khutba in their names and had paid them annual tribute.
    • Internal conflict among the Deccan states:
      • It also motivated the Mughal ruler to intervene in their affairs.
    • To protect trade route:
      • Akbar’s desire to protect the trade route towards the Gujarat sea-ports and to establish his domination there was one of the important factors that guided his Deccan policy.
    • To drive Portuguese away:
      • Besides, the Portuguese had established themselves very well on the Western coast of India and had emerged as a force to reckon with.
      • Akbar wanted to assert Mughal suzerainty over the Deccan states in order to drive the Portugutse away from the western coast of India.
  • The earlier contacts were limited to the visits of emissaries or casual contacts.
  • The first contact between Akbar and the Deccan states was established after 1561 when Akbar, after the conquest of Malwa, ordered its governor Pir Muhammad to subdue Asirgarh and Burhanpur where the former ruler of Malwa, Baz Bahadur, had taken refuge.
    • After capturing Bijagarh, he advanced towards Asirgarh where the ruler of Khandesh, Miran Mubarak Shah II and Baz Bahadur of Malwa, were preparing to resist the Mughals.
    • Mubarak Shah appealed to Tufal Khan of Berar for help who joined him.
      • The allies marched against Pir Muhammad and defeated the Mughals at Bijagarh.
    • Akbar himself marched to Mandu to control the situation.
      • This alarmed Miran Mubarak Shah who sent envoys to Akbar and apologised for his conduct.
      • He married one of his daughters to the Emperor, acknowledged Akbar’s overlordship, read khutba in his name and gave Bijagarh and Handia in dowry to his daughter.
  • During the ten years following the annexation of Malwa by Akbar in 1562, the
    struggles that took place in the Deccan attracted Akbar’s attention.
  • After 1590, Akbar started a planned Deccan policy to bring these states under Mughal control. Around this time, the Deccan states were facing internal strife and regular conflicts.
  • In 1591, Akbar sent four diplomatic missions to the four rulers of the Deccan in order to find out the real state of affairs there and also to see whether they were willing to acknowledge his suzerainty.
    • Faizi was sent to Asirgarh and Burhanpur (Khandesh),
    • Khwaja Aminuddin to Ahmednagar,
    • Mir Mohammad Amin Mashadi to Bijapur, and
    • Mirza Ma’sud to Golkonda.
  • Only Raja Ali Khan, the ruler of Khandesh reaffirmed the acknowledgement of Akbar’s supremacy and sent his daughter with choice gifts for Prince Salim.
    • The reports about other rulers were not favourable.
    • Akbar decided to launch the military offensive at this juncture when his diplomatic mission failed.
  • The first expedition was dispatched to Ahmednagar under the command of Prince Murad and Abdul Rahim Khan Khanan.
    • In 1595, the Mughal forces sieged Ahmednagar.
    • Its ruler Chand Bibi at the head of a large army faced the Mughals. She approached Ibrahim Ali Shah of Bijapur and Qutub Shah of Golkonda for help but with no success.
    • Chand Bibi gave a very serious resistance to the Mughal Army.
    • After heavy losses on both sides, a treaty was formulated. According to this treaty Chand Bibi ceded Berar.
    • After some time Chand Bibi attacked Berar to take it back. This time Nizamshahi, Qutabshahi and Adilshahi troops presented a joint front.
    • The Mughals suffered heavy losses but could manage to hold the field.
  • Meanwhile, serious differences between Murad and Khan Khanan weakened Mughal position.
    • Akbar therefore dispatched Abul Fazl to Deccan and recalled Khan Khanan.
  • After Prince Murad’s death in 1598, Prince Daniyal and Khan Khanan were sent to Deccan.
  • Akbar, too, joined them. First, Ahmednagar was captured. Meanwhile, Chand Bibi died.
  • Next, Asirgarh and adjoining regions were conquered by the Mughals (A.D. 1600).
  • Adil Shah of Bijapur also expressed allegiance and offered his daughter in marriage to Prince Daniyal.
  • Now Mughal territories in the Deccan included Asirgarh, Burhanpur, Ahmednagar and Berar.

Administrative reorganization 

  • Akbar’s policy of conquests and territorial expansion was accompanied by consolidating the new territories into Mughal administrative structure.
  • Formation of Subas:
    • In 1580, Akbar divided the whole territory under the Mughals into 12 provinces which were called subas.
    • These were Allahabad, Agra, Awadh, Ajmer, Admedabad (Gujarat), Bihar, Bengal (including Orissa), ‘Delhi, Kabul, Lahore, Multan and Malwa. After the Deccan conquest, three new subas were added making them to 15.
    • These were Berar, Khandesh and Ahmednagar.
    • These provinces were governed by a definite set of rules and a body of officers.
  • Military administration:
    • Akbar gave a new shape to the military administration also.
    • He combined the earlier practices and new measures for organising army and tried to evolve a centralised military structure. He gave mansabs to both military and civil officers on the basis of their merit or service to the state.
    • Mansab laterally means an office or rank and mansabdar means holder of a rank.
    • Akbar created 66 grades in his mansabari system, i.e., from the command of ten (dehbashi) to the commander of Ten Thousand (dahhezari).
    • All mansabdars were paid in cash or in the form of a jagir. The military administration evolved under Akbar underwent many changes during the rule of his successors.
  • (More about Mughal Administration is given in separate topic)

Policies towards autonomous chieftains:

  • In his efforts to consolidate the Mughal Empire, Akbar concentrated his attention on chieftains also.
  • Chieftains is a term which is generally used for the ruling dynasties spread throughout the country.
  • These rulers enjoyed a different sort of relationship with the Mughals.
  • On the one hand they were free to carry out administration within their territories.
    • On the other hand they held subordinate position vis-a-vis the Mughal Emperor.
  • Akbar’s success lies in the fact that lie could enlist the support of this group for the stability of his Empire. The subsequent Mughal Emperors also followed more or less the similar path.

Nature of the powers of chieftains:

  • In contemporary accounts these chiefs are referred to by different names such as Rai, Rana, Rawats, Rawals, Raja, Marzban, Kalantaran, etc. Sometimes the term zamindar is used to denote both ordinary landholders and autonomous chiefs.
  • But there is a definite difference between the two. The zamindars were not independent of the Mughal authority while the chiefs-enjoyed comparative autonomy in their territories and had a different relationship with the Mughal Emperors.
  • The first major study on chieftains was made by Ahsan Raza Khan.
    • He established that they were not confined to peripheral areas of the Empire but were also found in the core regions in the subas of Delhi, Agra, Awadh and Allahabad.
    • The largest number of these chieftains were Rajputs but they belonged to all castes including Muslims.
  • The chieftains were a powerful group possessing large infantry, cavalry and hundreds of miles of land area yielding vast amount of revenue.

Mughal Encounters with Chieftains:

  • After the defeat of the Lodis, the central power in India, Babur had to face joint rebellions of Afghans and chieftains.
  • Humayun also had to face their hostility.
  • Akbar’s initial contacts with the chieftains were through skirmishes and wars.
  • In many cases the chieftains joined hands with Afghan and Mughal rebels. In the process of the conquests and consolidation of Mughal power, Akbar got the support and submission of chieftains.
  • There was no formal declared policy of Akbar towards them.
  • On the basis of references in the contemporary sources, we get an idea about the relations between chiefs and the Mughals. These may be summarised as follows:
    • After the conquest of or submission they were generally left free to administer their territories.
      • They also had authority to collect revenue, impose taxes, levies and transit tax etc.
      • In the collection of revenue the chieftains generally followed local practices rather than the Mughal regulations.
    • These autonomous chieftains were taken into military service of the Mughals.
      • They were given jagirs and mansab.
      • A.R. Khan esimates that around 61 chiefs were given mansab during Akbar’s reign.
      • The same trend continued during the reigns of successive Mughal Emperors.
    • In many cases where chieftains were not directly absorbed as mansabdars, they are found helping the Mughal army in their operation against enemy territories or suppression of rebellions.
      • They throughout the Mughal rule helped in conquering extensive areas, at times even against their own clansmen.
    • They were given important administrative positions like subadar (governors), diwan, bakhshi etc.
    • Often they were assigned their own teiritories as jagir called as watan jagir which was hereditary and non transferable.
    • An interesting characteristic of their relations was that the Mughal Emperor retained the right to recognise the chieftain as the ruler in case of disputes within the family.
      • At the same time, those who had accepted the Mughal suzerainty were extended military protection.
    • The chieftains were supposed to pay a regular tribute to the Mughal Emperor called peshkash.
      • This was at times in cash and at others in diamonds, gold, elephants etc.
      • Apart from being a source of revenue, the payment of peshkash was a symbol of submission to the Mughals.
    • A number of matrimonial alliances were also established between Mughal royal family and the chieftains.

Rebellion of Chieftains:

  • We come across numerous instances of rebellions by chieftains. The causes for such rebellions are often stated as non-payment of revenue or tribute.
  • In case of rebellions, the Mughal polity was not to dispossess the chieftains from their territories.
    • Some one from the same family was left in control of the territory.
    • In some instances when a chieftain was dispossessed, it was for a short period often as a reprimand. Later, he or one of his family members was reinstated.
  • The Mughal policy towards chieftains initiated under Akbar continued during the reigns of subsequent Mughal Emperors.
    • The policy of absorbing them into Mughal nobility paid rich dividends to the Empire.
  • The Mughal Emperor succeeded in getting the support of chieftains and their armies for new conquests.
    • As part of Mughal nobility, their help was also available for administering a large Empire.
    • In addition, a friendly relationship with them ensured peace for the Empire.
  • At the same time, the chieftains also benefited.
    • They could retain their territories and administer them as they wished.
    • In addition, they received jagir and mansab.
    • Often they got territories in jagir bigger than their Kingdoms.
    • It also provided them security against enemies and rebellions.

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