Ahmed Shah Bahadur inherited a much weakened Mughal state. He was emperor in title for six years, but left all affairs to state to rivalling factions. He was deposed by the Vizier Feroze Jung III and later blinded along with his mother. He spent the remaining years of his life in prison and died of natural causes in January 1775.
Prince Ahmad was born in 1725 to the Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah and his consort Qudsia Begum. The Deccan Wars of 1680-1707 had initiated the final decline of the Mughal Empire well before his birth.
As a young Prince Ahmad developed a weakness for women, though this was restricted under his father's supervision. He is also known to have been an illiterate and never took part in military training. He was strongly supported by his mother, who began to manipulate the imperial court due to the grief of her husband and his inability to consolidate the empire and during the reign of her son who sought the harem more than his duties to the empire.
After the death of the Mughal viceroy of Lahore, Zakariya Khan Bahadur, his two sons, Yahya Khan Bahadur and Mian Shah Nawaz Khan, the Emir of Multan, fought each other during for succession. After defeating his elder brother Mian Shah Nawaz Khan declared himself the Mughal viceroy of Punjab. This weakness was quickly exploited by Ahmad Shah Durrani who initiated another campaign with 30,000 cavalry to assist Shah Nawaz Khan, who was resented for tax-evasion in the Mughal imperial court and opposed by the Grand Vizier, Qamaruddin Khan, who was the father-in-law of Yahya Khan.
In April 1748, Ahmad Shah Abdali joined by Shah Nawaz Khan invaded the Indus River Valley, prompting Muradyab Khan Kalhoro the Subedar of Sindh to dispatch reinforcements to assist the Mughal Army along the river banks. Prince Ahmad and Qamaruddin Khan, Hafiz Rahmat Khan, Safdarjung, Intizam-ud-Daula, Nasir Khan the former Subedar of Ghazni and Kabul, Yahya Khan and Ali Muhammad Khan Rohilla were dispatched by Muhammad Shah to command a large army of 75,000 to confront the 12,000 advancing Durrani's. During the Battle of Manipur (1748), in Sirhind by the river Sutlej both forces fought a decisive battle and Prince Ahmad was nominally victorious, he was thereupon conferred with the title Bahadur, after a Durrani wagon filled with gunpowder exploded. However, the Muhammad Shah seriously mourned the fall of Qamaruddin Khan, who was killed by a stray artillery shell during the battle. After Ahmad Shah Durrani's retreat the Mughal aligned Khanate of Kalat, Nawab Amir of Bhawalpur remained aligned to Alamgir II. Only before the prelude to the Third Battle of Panipat became subjects of the Durrani Empire.
However, Qamaruddin Khan's son Muin ul-Mulk also a recognised war hero from the Battle of Manipur, was placed as the Mughal viceroy of Punjab, by the new Mughal Emperor Ahmad Shah Bahadur.
In 1751, Ahmad Shah Bahadur permitted the resident Ottoman delegations and their ambassador Haji Yusuf Agha to return to Istanbul, he did not attempt to reestablish relations and contacts with the Ottoman Sultans from thenceforth.
The Battle of Manipur had a considerable impact on the tactical prowess of Ahmad Shah Bahadur. When he became emperor, he is known to have introduced and organised the Purbiya artillerymen corps particularly in the years 1754-51 to combat the invading Durranis and the rebellious Sikhs in the North-West regions of his empire.
Qamaruddin Khan died during the Sirhind conflict. This news led to Muhammad Shah becoming gravely sick and he died soon afterwards. Prince Ahmad ascended the throne on 18 April 1748 and on 29 April 1748 his coronation was held at Red Fort in Delhi. He assumed the title Abu Nasir Mujahid-ud-Din Ahmad Shah Ghazi.
The new emperor now began to enjoy his life with women in his harem. He appointed Safdarjung, the Nawab of Oudh, as Grand Vizier, Feroze Jung III as Mir Bakshi, and Muin ul-Mulk, the son of Qamaruddin Khan, as the governor of Punjab The head eunuch of the Mughal court, Javed Khan, was given the official title of Nawab Bahadur and an army of 5000. Together with the emperor's mother, who was given a force of 50,000, Javed Khan became effective regent. Javed Khan's rise to power and his authority was seen as an affront to the nobility and the aristocracy of the empire, and in particular to the emperor's soldiers.
Qudsia Begum made every effort to protect the high authority that was granted to Javed Khan and authorised him to use force against those who opposed and resented both him and her. After Safdarjung survived an assassination attempt in 1749 (plotted by Javed Khan), due to his response tensions erupted in the Mughal court when he tried to de-legitimise any relatives of his predeceasing Grand Viziers he also tried to drive out all the members of the imperial Afghan faction from positions of authority due to the stipends they received from the eunuch. These policies brought Safdarjung in conflict with the principal members of the Turani Faction and particularly Javed Khan.
In 1750, Javed Khan arrested the Mughal commander Salabat Khan, who had demanded pay for his 18,000 troops who had bene recalled to Delhi after completing the assigned expedition against Marwar. While imprisoned, Salabat Khan sold all his property to pay his troops in order to halt a possible revolt and thenceforth lived in poverty like a Dervish.
Angered by the policies of the Grand Vizier, Ahmad Khan Bangash attacked Safdarjung's possessions in Awadh, during which Safdarjung was wounded in the neck.
Safdarjung responded by amassing an army that included Jat and Maratha mercenaries. This defeated Qudsia Begum's loyalists in Rohilkhand, at which point Ahmad Shah demanded an immediate cease of hostilities. Safdarjung obeyed but also ordered his Turkish units, led by Muhammad Ali Jerchi, to assassinate Javed Khan for his involvement in the malevolence in August 1752.
Safdarjung's action cleared the path for the rise of Qudsia Begum's opponents within Javed Khan's faction, such as Intizam-ud-Daula.
In May 1753, Ahmad Shah Bahadur chose the 18-year-old Feroze Jung III, the son of the dead Intizam-ud-Daula, to counter the growing influence of Safdarjung. Feroze Jung III gathered opposition to Safdarjung, and was joined by Hafiz Rahmat Khan Barech, Qudsia Begum and Ahmad Shah Bahadur himself. Safdarjung was defeated and stripped of his estates and authority but the influence of supporters such as Suraj Mal meant that he was forgiven and allowed to withdraw to Awadh.
Feroze Jung III then emerged as the new regent. His prowess was feared by Ahmad Shah Bahadur, who soon became estranged from him after Feroze Jung III collected 1,500,000 dams and refused to pay salaries to the Mughal army and imperial officials. Ahmad Shah Bahadur soon after declared Safdarjung to be his Grand Vizier. He tried to have Feroze Jung III removed from the imperial court, which caused Feroze Jung III to send Aqibat Mahmud to arrest the emperor and then seek an alliance with the Maratha chieftain Sadashivrao Bhau.
Raghunathrao demanded that Suraj Mal pay Chauth and Sardeshmukhi (harsh forms of tribute), after his refusal; Khanderao Holkar was dispatched to overthrow Suraj Mal, with the support of Feroze Jung III.
Fearing the strength of Feroze Jung III after his alliance with the Maratha Confederacy, Ahmad Shah Bahadur reconciled with Safdarjung and wrote letters to Madhao Singh of Amber and Marwar chiefs and also Suraj Mal, who had been besieged for four months at Siege of Kumher Fort.
Although besieged, Suraj Mal planned that Ahmad Shah Bahadur would advance to Sikandarabad on an excuse of a hunting trip and there would be joined by Safdarjung and the Jats (under the command of Suraj Mal). From thence the emperor would move towards Agra where Amber and Marwar chiefs were to join him. The siege at Kumher Fort would conclude when Khanderao Holkar was killed in a Zamburak shot by the forces of Suraj Mal.
But Feroze Jung III and his allies had realised this plan. Aided by the Marathas, led by Malhar Rao Holkar, he defeated Safdarjung. The Emperor then collected a large army and camped at Sikandarabad, where the Maratha chieftain Sadashivrao Bhau, Malhar Rao Holkar and 2,000 Marathas, together with Feroze Jung III, routed his army at the First Battle of Sikandarabad (1754). Ahmad Shah fled to Delhi, leaving his mother, wives and a retinue of 8,000 women behind.
Feroze Jung III (with the support of Raghunathrao) proceeded to Delhi, where he imprisoned both the emperor and his mother.
Meanwhile, following the battle at Sikandarabad, the ailing Safdarjung fled to Awadh and a Mughal general laid siege to Bhurtpore, which Suraj Mal and his Jat rebels controlled. After being reinstated as the Grand Vizier, Feroze Jung III moved out of Delhi to support his lieutenant with a fresh supply of ammunition.
It was during this confrontation that Feroze Jung III claimed that Ahmad Shah Bahadur sent secret dispatches to Suraj Mal, encouraging him to fight and promised to advance to the aid of the Jats. He had intercepted the letters, made peace with Suraj Mal, and returned to Delhi, where he blinded Ahmad Shah. After hearing of this action Safdarjung fell ill and died.
The weak but influential Ahmad Shah Bahadur maintained correspondence from distant loyal vassals and Nawabs such as Chanda Sahib, Nawab of Tinnevelly (his southernmost subject) and Muzaffar Jung.
Muhammad Shah bestowed him with the title Nasir Jung and later the next Mughal Emperor Ahmad Shah Bahadur appointed him as the Subedar of the Deccan and bestowed him with the title Nasir-ud-Daula, he was killed by the renegade Himmat Khan in 1750.
In 1749 Joseph François Dupleix allied with Chanda Sahib and Muzaffar Jung, the two strong designated Mughal administrators in the Deccan and sought bring them into power in their respective regions. Other leaders such as Hyder Ali also sided with the French. Soon the Chanda Sahib, Muzzafar Jung and the French led by Patissier and De Bussy had the capacity to defeat the alarmed Nawab of the Carnatic Anwaruddin Muhammed Khan during the Battle of Ambur.
In response to this power struggle among the Mughal subjects in the Deccan, Muhammed Ali Khan Wallajah and Nasir Jung aligned themselves with the English in 1750. When Nasir Jung tried to recapture Gingee Fort, from De Bussy he was halted, defeated and killed by the forces of the troublesome Himmat Khan, the Nawab of Kadapa. Dupleix, who was the real power behind the successors, soon delegated a formidable governance to his allies: Muzaffar Jung was declared the Nizam of Mughal lands in eastern-Deccan and Chanda Sahib was declared the new Nawab of the Carnatic. The French were perceived as powerful aristocrats throughout the Mughal Empire; their English counterparts, however, had their reputations tarnished by the alleged acts of piracy since the days of Aurangzeb.
Salabat Khan, the Mir Bakshi and commander of the Mughal army, was joined by Bakht Singh in Marwar against the forces of Ram Singh and Ishwari Singh. The sides fought each other in 1750 at the Battle of Raona. Immediately after the battle, Ishwari Singh reconciled with Salabat Khan and the confrontation ended in ceasefire. Soon afterwards the Maratha Confederacy invaded Jaipur and Ishwari Singh committed suicide.
In 1750, Muin-ul-Mulk ceded territories to Ahmad Shah Durrani in order to seek an end to all hostilities. However, Ahmad Shah Durrani invaded again in 1751 and occupied Kashmir the opposing Mughals led by Muin-ul-Mulk were entirely defeated and captured in 1753. Ahmad Shah Durrani pardoned captured Mughal viceroy Muin-ul-Mulk due to his courageousness in battle and reappointed Muin-ul-Mulk as his representative with the permission of the Mughal Emperor Ahmad Shah Bahadur.
Various chieftains of the Maratha Confederacy had from two fronts defeated the subjects of Ahmad Shah Bahadur in Gujarat and Orissa.
In 1750, the Marathas annexed Gujarat from the Mughals, and fierce battles continued between the two sides it was during that havoc that the Raj Bovri Mosque complex was destroyed during a massive fray in 1753.
In response to the annexation of Gujarat, the Mughal Emperor Ahmad Shah Bahadur appointed and strengthened the Nawab of Junagarh Nawab Muhammad Bahadur Khanji and bestowed various titles and authority to various entities loyal to the Mughal Empire in the region. Ahmad Shah Bahadur and Safdarjung also dispatched Salabat Khan and an army of 18,000 to an expedition to quell all rebels in Rajput territories and to gather support for the regions garrisons.
In 1751 after defending his territories from the Marathas for nearly 11 years, Alivardi Khan the Nawab of Bengal, and Faujdars from various regions such as Patna, Dacca and Orissa were overrun by large force of Marathas under the command of Raghoji I Bhonsle, who eventually annexed Odisha for the Maratha Confederacy.
In 1751, Chanda Sahib and his lieutenants Reza Sahib and Muhammed Yusuf Khan were defeated by Muhammed Ali Khan Wallajah and Clive during the Battle of Arcot. Later onward's Muzaffar Jung faced the averse uncooperative Nawabs of Kurnool, Cuddapah and Savanur after they jointly attacked Muzaffar Jung' encampments of 3000 troops, during the confrontation the Nawab of Savanur was killed, the Nawab of Kurnool was shot and wounded but apathetic Himmat Khan, the Nawab of Kadapa, challenged Muzaffar Jung to a duel. Charging their Howdah's at each other, they eliminated each other in combat.
The news of Muzaffar Jung's death had created a great sense of shock and panic among the Mughals and the French were also affected by this unforeseeable event. De Bussy rose to the occasion and almost risked the wrath of the imperial court when he chose his brother Salabat Jung as the new Subedar of the Deccan, without the approval of Ahmad Shah Bahadur. Together they entered Hyderabad on 12 April and then marched against the Marathas to strengthen the Mughal garrison at Aurangabad on 18 June. Unwilling to allow his brother to gain power, Intizam-ud-Daula, an influential general in the Mughal army, abandoned his post and threatened to march into the Deccan with an army of 150,000 and overthrow Salabat Jung with the assistance of their Maratha adversary Balaji Bajirao.
Instead of awaiting an imminent invasion Dupleix decided to challenge the Marathas and inflicted a defeat upon their leader Balaji Bajirao by taking advantage of a lunar eclipse in December 1751. The coalition of De Bussy and Salabat Jung efficiently marched towards Poona delivering a series of crushing defeats upon the Marathas and their allies for the first time in decades. In the following year De Bussy enforced the Peace Treaty of Ahmadnagar upon the Marathas.
Intizam-ud-Daula was poisoned by his own troops for pursuing an alliance with Balaji Bajirao. The Nawab of the Carnatic Chanda Sahib was killed in a mutiny after he was defeated by Muhammed Ali Khan Wallajah and Clive in 1752. Muhammed Ali Khan Wallajah was then recognised as the next Nawab of the Carnatic, mainly by arousing the sympathies of Ahmad Shah Bahadur.
In 1753, De Bussy led his coalition in order to capture the Northern Circars this move would also trigger another series of victories against the Maratha chieftain Raghoji I Bhonsle in 1754. This campaign continued until 1757 and Salabat Jung and De Bussy's inflicted a series of upon the Maratha around their own strongholds near Poona. This alliance with the French had greatly contributed to the advancement of Salabat Jung's forces, in 1756 Salabat Jung's forces utilised heavy muskets known as Catyocks, which were attached to the ground, it was known to have fired more rapidly than a cannon. These new weapons would completely reverse fortunes of the Maratha rebels.
After his deposition, Ahmad Shah Bahadur was imprisoned at the Salimgarh Fort. He stayed there for the rest of his life, dying in 1775 at the age of 50 during the reign of Emperor Shah Alam II. One of his sons, Bidar Bakhsh reigned briefly in 1788.