The Mughal Empire (Urdu: مغلیہ سلطنت, Mughliyah Salṭanat) or Mogul Empire, self-designated as Gurkani (Persian: گورکانیان, Gūrkāniyān, meaning "son-in-law"), was an empire in the Indian subcontinent, established and ruled by a Muslim Turkic dynasty of Chagatai Turco-Mongol origin from Central Asia. The dynasty, though ethnically Turco-Mongol, was Persianate in terms of culture.
The Mughal empire extended over large parts of the Indian subcontinent and Afghanistan. The empire at its peak, was the second largest to have existed in the Indian subcontinent, spanning 4 million square kilometres at its zenith, after the Maurya Empire, which spanned 5 million square kilometres.
The beginning of the empire is conventionally dated to the victory by its founder Babur over Ibrahim Lodi, the last ruler of the Delhi Sultanate, in the First Battle of Panipat (1526). The Mughal emperors were Central Asian Turco-Mongols belonging to the Timurid dynasty, who claimed direct descent from both Genghis Khan (founder of the Mongol Empire, through his son Chagatai Khan) and Timur (Turco-Mongol conqueror who founded the Timurid Empire). During the reign of Humayun, the successor of Babur, the empire was briefly interrupted by the Sur Empire. The "classic period" of the Mughal Empire started in 1556 with the ascension of Akbar the Great to the throne. Under the rule of Akbar and his son Jahangir, the region enjoyed economic progress as well as religious harmony, and the monarchs were interested in local religious and cultural traditions. Akbar was a successful warrior who also forged alliances with several Hindu Rajput kingdoms. Some Rajput kingdoms continued to pose a significant threat to the Mughal dominance of northwestern India, but most of them were subdued by Akbar. All Mughal emperors were Muslims; while Akbar was Muslim most of his life, he propounded a syncretic religion in the latter part of his life called Deen-i-Ilahi, as recorded in historical books like Ain-e-Akbari and Dabestan-e Mazaheb.
The Mughal Empire did not try to intervene in the local societies during most of its existence, but rather balanced and pacified them through new administrative practices and diverse and inclusive ruling elites, leading to more systematic, centralised, and uniform rule. Traditional and newly coherent social groups in northern and western India, such as the Marathas, the Rajputs, the Pashtuns, the Hindu Jats and the Sikhs, gained military and governing ambitions during Mughal rule, which, through collaboration or adversity, gave them both recognition and military experience.
The reign of Shah Jahan, the fifth emperor, between 1628 and 1658 was the golden age of Mughal architecture. He erected several large monuments, the best known of which is the Taj Mahal at Agra, as well as the Moti Masjid, Agra, the Red Fort, the Jama Masjid, Delhi, and the Lahore Fort. The Mughal Empire reached the zenith of its territorial expanse during the reign of Aurangzeb and also started its terminal decline in his reign due to Maratha military resurgence under Shivaji Bhosale. During his lifetime, victories in the south expanded the Mughal Empire to more than 3.2 million square kilometres (1.2 million square miles), ruling over more than 150 million subjects, nearly one quarter of the world's population at the time, with a combined GDP of over $90 billion.
By the mid-18th century, the Marathas had routed Mughal armies and won over several Mughal provinces from the Punjab to Bengal. Internal dissatisfaction arose due to the weakness of the empire's administrative and economic systems, leading to its break-up and declarations of independence of its former provinces by the Nawab of Bengal, the Nawab of Awadh, the Nizam of Hyderabad and other small states. In 1739, the Mughals were crushingly defeated in the Battle of Karnal by the forces of Nader Shah, the founder of the Afsharid dynasty in Persia, and Delhi was sacked and looted, drastically accelerating their decline. During the following century Mughal power had become severely limited, and the last emperor, Bahadur Shah II, had authority over only the city of Shahjahanabad. He issued a firman supporting the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and following the defeat was therefore tried by the British East India Company for treason, imprisoned and exiled to Rangoon. The last remnants of the empire were formally taken over by the British, and the Government of India Act 1858 let the British Crown formally assume direct control of India in the form of the new British Raj.
Contemporaries referred to the empire founded by Babur as the Timurid empire, which reflected the heritage of his dynasty, and this was the term preferred by the Mughals themselves. Another name was Hindustan, which was documented in the Ain-i-Akbari, and which has been described as the closest to an official name for the empire. In the west, the term "Mughal" was used for the emperor, and by extension, the empire as a whole. The use of Mughal derived from the Arabic and Persian corruption of Mongol, and it emphasised the Mongol origins of the Timurid dynasty. The term gained currency during the 19th century, but remains disputed by Indologists. Similar terms had been used to refer to the empire, including "Mogul" and "Moghul". Nevertheless, Babur's ancestors were sharply distinguished from the classical Mongols insofar as they were oriented towards Persian rather than Turco-Mongol culture.
The Mughal Empire was founded by Babur, a Central Asian ruler who was descended from the Turco-Mongol conqueror Timur (the founder of the Timurid Empire) on his father's side and from Chagatai, the second son of the Mongol ruler Genghis Khan, on his mother's side. Ousted from his ancestral domains in Central Asia, Babur turned to India to satisfy his ambitions. He established himself in Kabul and then pushed steadily southward into India from Afghanistan through the Khyber Pass. Babur's forces occupied much of northern India after his victory at Panipat in 1526. The preoccupation with wars and military campaigns, however, did not allow the new emperor to consolidate the gains he had made in India. The instability of the empire became evident under his son, Humayun, who was driven out of India and into Persia by rebels. Humayun's exile in Persia established diplomatic ties between the Safavid and Mughal Courts, and led to increasing Persian cultural influence in the Mughal Empire. The restoration of Mughal rule began after Humayun's triumphant return from Persia in 1555, but he died from a fatal accident shortly afterwards. Humayun's son, Akbar, succeeded to the throne under a regent, Bairam Khan, who helped consolidate the Mughal Empire in India.
Through warfare and diplomacy, Akbar was able to extend the empire in all directions and controlled almost the entire Indian subcontinent north of the Godavari River. He created a new class of nobility loyal to him from the military aristocracy of India's social groups, implemented a modern government, and supported cultural developments. At the same time, Akbar intensified trade with European trading companies. India developed a strong and stable economy, leading to commercial expansion and economic development. Akbar allowed free expression of religion, and attempted to resolve socio-political and cultural differences in his empire by establishing a new religion, Din-i-Ilahi, with strong characteristics of a ruler cult. He left his successors an internally stable state, which was in the midst of its golden age, but before long signs of political weakness would emerge. Akbar's son, Jahangir, ruled the empire at its peak, but he was addicted to opium, neglected the affairs of the state, and came under the influence of rival court cliques. During the reign of Jahangir's son, Shah Jahan, the culture and splendour of the luxurious Mughal court reached its zenith as exemplified by the Taj Mahal. The maintenance of the court, at this time, began to cost more than the revenue.
Shah Jahan's eldest son, the liberal Dara Shikoh, became regent in 1658, as a result of his father's illness. However, a younger son, Aurangzeb, allied with the Islamic orthodoxy against his brother, who championed a syncretistic Hindu-Muslim culture, and ascended to the throne. Aurangzeb defeated Dara in 1659 and had him executed. Although Shah Jahan fully recovered from his illness, Aurangzeb declared him incompetent to rule and had him imprisoned. During Aurangzeb's reign, the empire gained political strength once more, but his religious conservatism and intolerance undermined the stability of Mughal society. Aurangzeb expanded the empire to include almost the whole of South Asia, but at his death in 1707, many parts of the empire were in open revolt. Aurangzeb's son, Shah Alam, repealed the religious policies of his father, and attempted to reform the administration. However, after his death in 1712, the Mughal dynasty sank into chaos and violent feuds. In 1719 alone, four emperors successively ascended the throne.
During the reign of Muhammad Shah, the empire began to break up, and vast tracts of central India passed from Mughal to Maratha hands. The far-off Indian campaign of Nadir Shah, who had priorly reestablished Iranian suzerainty over most of West Asia, the Caucasus, and Central Asia, culminated with the Sack of Delhi and shattered the remnants of Mughal power and prestige. Many of the empire's elites now sought to control their own affairs, and broke away to form independent kingdoms. But, according to Sugata Bose and Ayesha Jalal, the Mughal Emperor, however, continued to be the highest manifestation of sovereignty. Not only the Muslim gentry, but the Maratha, Hindu, and Sikh leaders took part in ceremonial acknowledgements of the emperor as the sovereign of India.
The Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II made futile attempts to reverse the Mughal decline, and ultimately had to seek the protection of outside powers i.e. from the Emir of Afghanistan, Ahmed Shah Abdali, which led to the Third Battle of Panipat between the Maratha Empire and the Afghans led by Abdali in 1761. In 1771, the Marathas recaptured Delhi from Afghan control and in 1784 they officially became the protectors of the emperor in Delhi, a state of affairs that continued further until after the Third Anglo-Maratha War. Thereafter, the British East India Company became the protectors of the Mughal dynasty in Delhi. The British East India company took control of the former Mughal province of Bengal-Bihar in 1793 after it abolished local rule (Nizamat) that lasted until 1858, marking the beginning of British colonial era over the Indian Subcontinent. By 1857 a considerable part of former Mughal India was under the East India's company's control. After a crushing defeat in the war of 1857–1858 which he nominally led, the last Mughal, Bahadur Shah Zafar, was deposed by the British East India Company and exiled in 1858. Through the Government of India Act 1858 the British Crown assumed direct control of East India company held territories in India in the form of the new British Raj. In 1876 the British Queen Victoria assumed the title of Empress of India.
Historians have offered numerous explanations for the rapid collapse of the Mughal Empire between 1707 and 1720, after a century of growth and prosperity. In fiscal terms the throne lost the revenues needed to pay its chief officers, the emirs (nobles) and their entourages. The emperor lost authority, as the widely scattered imperial officers lost confidence in the central authorities, and made their own deals with local men of influence. The imperial army, bogged down in long, futile wars against the more aggressive Marathas lost its fighting spirit. Finally came a series of violent political feuds over control of the throne. After the execution of emperor Farrukhsiyar in 1719, local Mughal successor states took power in region after region.
Contemporary chroniclers bewailed the decay they witnessed, a theme picked up by the first British historians who wanted to underscore the need for a British-led rejuvenation.
Since the 1970s historians have taken multiple approaches to the decline, with little consensus on which factor was dominant. The psychological interpretations emphasise depravity in high places, excessive luxury, and increasingly narrow views that left the rulers unprepared for an external challenge. A Marxist school (led by Irfan Habib and based at Aligarh Muslim University) emphasises excessive exploitation of the peasantry by the rich, which stripped away the will and the means to support the regime. Karen Leonard has focused on the failure of the regime to work with Hindu bankers, whose financial support was increasingly needed; the bankers then helped the Maratha and the British. In a religious interpretation, some scholars argue that the Hindu powers revolted against the rule of a Muslim dynasty. Finally, other scholars argue that the very prosperity of the Empire inspired the provinces to achieve a high degree of independence, thus weakening the imperial court.
A major Mughal contribution to the Indian subcontinent was their unique architecture. Many monuments were built by the Muslim emperors, especially Shah Jahan, during the Mughal era including the UNESCO World Heritage Site Taj Mahal, which is known to be one of the finer examples of Mughal architecture. Other World Heritage Sites include Humayun's Tomb, Fatehpur Sikri, the Red Fort, the Agra Fort, and the Lahore Fort
The palaces, tombs, and forts built by the dynasty stand today in Agra, Aurangabad, Delhi, Dhaka, Fatehpur Sikri, Jaipur, Lahore, Kabul, Sheikhupura, and many other cities of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. With few memories of Central Asia, Babur's descendants absorbed traits and customs of South Asia, and became more or less naturalised.
Mughal influence can be seen in cultural contributions such as:Centralized, imperialistic government which brought together many smaller kingdoms.Persian art and culture amalgamated with Indian art and culture.New trade routes to Arab and Turkic lands.The development of Mughlai cuisine.Mughal Architecture found its way into local Indian architecture, most conspicuously in the palaces built by Rajputs and Sikh rulers.Landscape and Mughal gardening
Although the land the Mughals once ruled has separated into what is now India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan, their influence can still be seen widely today. Tombs of the emperors are spread throughout India, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
The Mughal artistic tradition was eclectic, borrowing from the European Renaissance as well as from Persian and Indian sources. Kumar concludes, "The Mughal painters borrowed individual motifs and certain naturalistic effects from Renaissance and Mannerist painting, but their structuring principle was derived from Indian and Persian traditions."
Although Persian was the dominant and "official" language of the empire, the language of the elite later evolved into a form known as Urdu. Highly Persianized and also influenced by Arabic and Turkic, the language was written in a type of Perso-Arabic script known as Nastaliq, and with literary conventions and specialised vocabulary being retained from Persian, Arabic and Turkic; the new dialect was eventually given its own name of Urdu. Compared with Hindi, the Urdu language draws more vocabulary from Persian and Arabic (via Persian) and (to a much lesser degree) from Turkic languages where Hindi draws vocabulary from Sanskrit more heavily. Modern Hindi, which uses Sanskrit-based vocabulary along with Urdu loan words from Persian and Arabic, is mutually intelligible with Urdu. Today, Urdu is the national language of Pakistan and one of the official languages in India.
The economic powerhouse of the Mughal Empire was the Bengal Subah, which generated 50% of the empire's GDP. It was described as the Paradise of Nations by Mughal emperors. The Mughals introduced agrarian reforms, including the modern Bengali calendar. The calendar played a vital role in developing and organising harvests, tax collection and Bengali culture in general, including the New Year and Autumn festivals. The province was a leading producer of grains, salt, pearls, fruits, liquors and wines, precious metals and ornaments. Its handloom industry flourished under royal warrants, making the region a hub of the worldwide muslin trade, which peaked in the 17th and 18th centuries. The provincial capital Dhaka became the commercial capital of the empire. The Mughals expanded cultivated land in the Bengal delta under the leadership of Sufis, which consolidated the foundation of Bengali Muslim society.
After 150 years of rule by Mughal viceroys, Bengal gained semi-independence as a dominion under the Nawab of Bengal in 1717. The Nawabs permitted European companies to set up trading posts across the region, including firms from Britain, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Portugal and Austria-Hungary. An Armenian community dominated banking and shipping in major cities and towns. The Europeans regarded Bengal as the richest place for trade. By the late 18th century, the British displaced the Mughal ruling class in Bengal.
The Indian economy remained as prosperous under the Mughals as it was, because of the creation of a road system and a uniform currency, together with the unification of the country. Manufactured goods and peasant-grown cash crops were sold throughout the world. Key industries included shipbuilding (the Indian shipbuilding industry was as advanced as the European, and Indians sold ships to European firms), textiles, and steel. The Mughals maintained a small fleet, which merely carried pilgrims to Mecca, imported a few Arab horses in Surat. Debal in Sindh was mostly autonomous. The Mughals also maintained various river fleets of Dhows, which transported soldiers over rivers and fought rebels. Among its admirals were Yahya Saleh, Munnawar Khan, and Muhammad Saleh Kamboh. The Mughals also protected the Siddis of Janjira. Its sailors were renowned and often voyaged to China and the East African Swahili Coast, together with some Mughal subjects carrying out private-sector trade.
Cities and towns boomed under the Mughals; however, for the most part, they were military and political centres, not manufacturing or commerce centres. Only those guilds which produced goods for the bureaucracy made goods in the towns; most industry was based in rural areas. The Mughals also built Maktabs in every province under their authority, where youth were taught the Quran and Islamic law such as the Fatawa-e-Alamgiri in their indigenous languages.
The Bengal region was especially prosperous from the time of its takeover by the Mughals in 1590 to the seizure of control by the British East India Company in 1757. In a system where most wealth was hoarded by the elites, wages were low for manual labour. Slavery was limited largely to household servants. However, some religious cults proudly asserted a high status for manual labour.
While there appears to have been little concern for theoretical astronomy, Mughal astronomers continued to make advances in observational astronomy and produced nearly a hundred Zij treatises. Humayun built a personal observatory near Delhi. The instruments and observational techniques used at the Mughal observatories were mainly derived from the Islamic tradition. In particular, one of the most remarkable astronomical instruments invented in Mughal India is the seamless celestial globe.
Sake Dean Mahomed had learned much of Mughal alchemy and understood the techniques used to produce various alkali and soaps to produce shampoo. He was also a notable writer who described the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II and the cities of Allahabad and Delhi in rich detail and also made note of the glories of the Mughal Empire.
Sake Dean Mahomed was appointed as shampooing surgeon to both Kings George IV and William IV.
Fathullah Shirazi (c. 1582), a Persian polymath and mechanical engineer who worked for Akbar, developed a volley gun.
Akbar was the first to initiate and use metal cylinder rockets known as bans particularly against War elephants, during the Battle of Sanbal.
In the year 1657, the Mughal Army used rockets during the Siege of Bidar. Prince Aurangzeb's forces discharged rockets and grenades while scaling the walls. Sidi Marjan was mortally wounded when a rocket struck his large gunpowder depot, and after twenty-seven days of hard fighting Bidar was captured by the victorious Mughals.
Later, the Mysorean rockets were upgraded versions of Mughal rockets used during the Siege of Jinji by the progeny of the Nawab of Arcot. Hyder Ali's father Fatah Muhammad the constable at Budikote, commanded a corps consisting of 50 rocketmen (Cushoon) for the Nawab of Arcot. Hyder Ali realised the importance of rockets and introduced advanced versions of metal cylinder rockets. These rockets turned fortunes in favour of the Sultanate of Mysore during the Second Anglo-Mysore War, particularly during the Battle of Pollilur.