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India: Past and The Future - Part II
The Rise and Fall of The Mughal Empire
By Parwaiz Khan
The remnants of the Great Mughal Empire fell to the British tyranny in 1857.
It was the dawn of a new era for the Indian subcontinent - The era of slavery - The era of hate, distrust and religious bigotry.
The two ends of the chain that represent the Mughal era point to the glorious Golden Age of the Indian subcontinent at the one end, and the fall to slavery on the other. The Mughal Empire's saga is no different than the saga of the Roman or Turkish Empires, or any other Empire for that matter. But, as the fall of this Empire ended up opening the road to the modern treacheries, an understanding of its operational structure and its history is essential to understand our modern world.
The Rise of The Empire
The Mughal Empire was founded in 1526 by Babur, He was a very talented and ambitious general. At the age of 14, he ascended the throne of the Central Asian kingdom of Farghana. In1504, he conquered what is now Afghanistan and in 1526 he conquered northwestern region of the Indian subcontinent. It was the beginning of The Great Mughal Empire.
Babur's successors expanded the empire to almost the entire subcontinent - from the borders of Afghanistan to Bengal and from Himalayas to almost the southern tip. The empire was set more on a republican model, with a very strong central authority - the Emperor. The Empire's governing system was brilliantly structured to work smoothly within the Indian culture and social fabrics. Mughals allied with the local ruling feudal lords and employed the local administrative classes. They incorporated the best of the central Asian governing skills and the Mauryan empire building talents. The ruling system that the Mughals implemented was complex and flexible at the same time. Success of their ingenious system is obvious with the facts that the region not only remained in relative peace and stability for three hundred years, it witnessed an unprecedented economic boom.
At the core of the system was the Emperor. Surrounding the Emperor was the hierarchy of the court that itself was set up in order of relative ranking system. The overall composition of the court was made up to maintain a perfect balance and put checks and bounds to curb the consolidation of power in any one group. Mughal courts were powerful institutions and the members of the court exercised considerable authority within the areas as specified by the Emperor. Mughals maintained an ethnic balance at the court with almost equal distribution betweens the Central Asians, Persians, Afghans, Indians (both Hindus and Muslims) and Rajputs - Rajputs, being the best Indian warriors ethnicity, had a very special place in the Mughal empire. But, no single ethnic or religious group, however, was large enough to challenge the supreme authority of the emperor.
The governors of the provinces and the key officials in the central government were all appointed by imperial orders and were accountable directly to the Emperor. The Emperor maintained a direct line of communication with all the imperial appointees to ensure their loyalties. Mughals incorporated a system of protocols and etiquette to establish the ranking hierarchy of the nobility that also specified the size of garrison and military that they were permitted to maintain.
Mughals maintained a very well trained and well equipped military, introduced artillery battalions and firearms and patronized a large armament industry. They incorporated the same philosophy in the military as in the administration - Military was composed of multiple ethnic groups and stationed in garrisons all over the subcontinent - Well fed and loyal to the Emperor and never a threat on its own.
On the economic front, Mughal ingenuity was unparallel - They certainly were the better of the feudal lords that the people of the subcontinent ever had. They built an extensive system of roads, ensured safety and security of travelers and traders and introduced a uniform currency. They encouraged production of high quality goods by rewarding high honors and cash to craftsmen and promoted free trade with the outside world. Indian shipbuilding industry and textile industry were the hallmark of that era. Indian traders exported their fine products to European and Asian markets and imported things such as foreign gold and silver coins (which were converted into Mughal coins), horses, ivory, wine and precious stones.
Though, Mughal were proclaiming Muslim denomination, they recognized that unlike the cousin empires to the west, Muslims were a minority in the subcontinent. The Muslim tax system were not going to provide enough income for the Empire as it puts the tax burden strictly on Muslims and permits only 2.50% tax, known as Jizya, on non-Muslims. In the name of "equality" Mughals applied a uniform tax code upon all its citizens - and became very prosperous in the prosperous.
Economy of the Mughal era India was the world's most prosperous economy. Economists state that at its peak, during the 17th and mid 18th century, India accounted for close to one-third of world's GDP. It had enormous trade surplus (think China of that time) with its trading partners and, as a result, Mughal Empire was literally rolling in gold.
The Rot of The Empire
It was an enormous empire - bloated to the brim - safe and secure in its ever increasing wealth and might. But, as has been the case of all the empires, the seeds of its destruction were sown in its very formation - founded by a very brave, and courageous feudal lord, expanded and lead to glory by a succession of some very brilliant and visionary heirs and, as usual, lead to disintegration and destruction by a succession of some very inefficient, weak and shortsighted heairs.
The founder of the Mughal Empire was Babar. He established the Mughal dynasty in 1526. His son Humanyun succeeded him in 1530 who passed the rein to his son Jalaluddin Akbar - came to be known as Akbar The Great - in 1556. Akbar is considered one of the most brilliant of the Mughal Emperors. He brought the remaining few independent kingdoms under his domain and expanded the empire from east-to-west to the entire northern subcontinent.
The reign of tyranny was passed to his son Jahangir in 1605. Jahangir's son Shahjahan ruled from 1627 to 1658 - All these years the empire was growing and becoming more prosperous - And, more corrupt and infested with internal conspiracies.
Shahjahan's succession saw a bloody struggle among his sons. The winner, Aurnagzeb ruled the empire from 1658 to 1707. He expanded the Mughal Empire to almost the entire subcontinent. He was a tough administrator - But a shortsighted ruler. He rooted out the competing rivalries and eliminated the conspiring factions but, committed many political blunders that sowed the seeds for the destruction of the empire.
After Aurangzeb, there was a succession of Mughal heirs - each one more inefficient, incapable and weaker than the previous one - each one contributing his bit to the disintegration process of the empire.
Akbar The Great, The Great Mughal, was the one who gave the empire its administrative, economic and political structure that lasted for centuries. He formulated the policies to suit the local customs and culture and worked with the existing feudal system. He planted his roots in the subcontinent and effectively made the Mughal Empire an Indian Empire.
From that point on, it was an established, well rooted and thriving Empire - The Great Mughal Empire.
To ensure its safety The Empire had created a multi-layered political and military hierarchy. Each layer was carefully laid out to maintain a perfect balance of ethnic and regional mix - It was a very well thought and well planned organization to serve the empire and never to pose a threat to the authority of the Emperor. The Emperor was the nucleolus that held and bound these varying interests together. The smooth and friction free operation of this intricate organization required a continuous tinkering and political acumen on part of the Emperor.
Over time, the empire and its bureaucracy had grown to gigantic proportions. Safe and secure in their walled forts, the successive emperors had practically handed over the operation of the empire in the trusted hands - Emperors had gone out of touch with the reality of the empire. Internal rivalries were erupting in open clashes and the alliances were being formed to serve the interests of varying groups.
The Mughal Empire was set up very much on a republic style. There were many kings, (Rajas, Maharajas and Nawabs) within the empire who pledged their loyalty to the empire, but otherwise, were free to maintain their internal affairs locally. Erupting rivalries and clashes at the center and lack of attention by the emperors had emboldened these kings to distance away from the emperor and, ultimately, to break away from the empire.
The military generals who were stationed away from the center of the empire had started exerting their independent authority over the territory under their command. Many conflicts and battles erupted between these military generals and the regional kings due to perceived incursions on each other's territory.
The on going trade surplus over decades with its trading partners, enormous concentration of wealth and the prosperity of the empire was attracting some very special interests from the European powers. European emissaries had become the permanent fixture of the imperial court lavishing the emperors and the court with the best that their respective countries had to offer, including the most beautiful women especially trained in the art of seduction. These emissaries of the European powers houses had the direct access to the successive emperors' ears.
By the mid 18th century, the empire was no more a well-knit singularity under a powerful emperor. The internal power struggle and discord had weakened the central authority and the regional kingdoms were openly threatening to break away from the empire. It was the era of chaos.
Masses were the ones who were really getting crushed in that scenario. They were being taxed ruthlessly and by multiple authorities. From the industry and trade to the agriculture, every sector was suffering. And, there was no more a market savvy emperor to bestow a relief. People were ready to fall for any promise or hope of relief. Population was ready for the exploitation.
England, France, Spain and Portugal had all secured the rights to establish their trading posts at various parts of the subcontinent. Most of those trading posts had been granted the status of garrisons with rights to maintain military bases - thanks to the corruption, inefficiency and lust of the "emperors". For the Europeans, it was time to move on the old world after having conquered the new world.
Flushed with the gold and silver coming from the New World, the European powers were in a position to enhance their influence in India. The political instability, internal rivalry and regional and religious differences provided a perfect field for the exploitation. And, in the race and competition to gain a strong foothold in the subcontinent, The British emerged as the winners.
It was not an expansionist empire on the move - it was the coalition of The Bankers and The Feudals who were on the move to loot, plunder, slaughter and enslave.The coalition of the willing and killing was organized under the corporate umbrella of The East India Company.
The East India Company
The East India Company or The British East India Company or The Honorable (!) East India Company was a vehicle of super wealthy British entities that was initially formed to trade with East Indies but, later on, ended up trading mostly with India. The company was actively trading with India since mid 1600. It was in the second half of the 17th century that the company secured special favors from the Mughal Empire and established its own forts and garrisons.
The British were not in it for the trade. They were lusting for it all - and for free. The tyrants were salivating at the wealth and abundance in Indian subcontinent. With the weakening of the empire after the death of Aurangzeb (1707), British saw their opportunity.
British had penetrated the Mughal courts and had established close relationship with in the power corridors of the empire. The Gold and Silver looted from the Americans was being put to good use - to buy the collaborators in India. They were putting the dissidents, traitors and tyrants on their payroll.
The list of the most prominent of these traitors include:
The Aga Khans. "Aga Khan" is a hereditary title. Hasan Ali Shah, the founder of this dynasty, established his loyalty to the Crown when he sided with the British against the Afghans' struggle for freedom in 1841.
He rendered further services to the British in helping them enslaving the Sindh and Baluchistan provinces. Hasan Ali Shah received an annual pension of #2,000 from General Charles Napier!
In 1887, the British gave the Aga Khan rank and nobility in recognition of the help in suppressing the Muslim rebellion against the British Raj. The Aga Khan was hailed as a great leader by the British and thus the Aga Khan became the only leader granted a personal gun salute!
The successive generations of these Aga Khans have continued on their chosen path. They are part of the Royalty and carry the title of Prince.
The Nizams were the appointed viceroy of the Mughal Empire. After the death of Aurngzeb, the Nizams split away from the Mughals to form their own little kingdom.
Nizam Asaf Jah II (1762-1803) was the one who betrayed his own compatriots, collaborated with the Brtish against the most effective and the last nationalist king, Tipu Sultan. In return of these services, the Nizams were allowed to maintain internal rule over their little Nizamdom (chiefdom). Nizams had been accorded special honors by British Royalty and were given the official status of Faithful Ally!
The Marathas, though didn't sell their soul for the gold, ended up betraying their compatriots and helping the British in enslaving the India. They are included in this list as with out the treachery of Aga Khans and the Nizams and the Marathas, the British would not have been succeeded in enslaving the humanity.
The Marathas had established their independent rule in the region of present day Maharashtra as the Mughal Empire was falling apart. Blinded with religious bigotry, they ended up plying in the hands of British and collaborated with them in attacking Tipu Sultan.
Marathas, once not needed and weakened by the wars with Tipu Sultan, were defeated and their little empire was absorbed by the British in 1818.
The list of the traitors who collaborated with the British East India Company and betrayed the humanity is long. The most prominent of these traitors were handsomely rewarded and appointed as Nawabs and Rajas (regional Lilliputian kings) to help the British rule the subcontinent.
The last effective freedom wars against the British were fought by Tipu Sultan, the ruler of Mysore state. There were three major wars between Tipu and the British and their allies (Nizams and Marathas). Twice he defeated the British.
Finally, with the help of Indian traitors and collaborators, British won in their third war and Tipu Sultan died fighting in 1799.
There was a final struggle to throw away the yoke of British tyranny in 1857. Again, thanks to the local collaborators, the humanity lost. The British crown took over the direct control of India.
. . . And, the Indian subcontinent witnessed the atrocities that it had never seen.