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Death of Shah Jahan

Death of Shah Jahan

  India's History : Medieval India : Death of Shah Jahan - 1666

The Emperor on Death Bed

SHAH JAHAN, Mogul emperor of Delhi, the fifth of the dynasty. After revolting against his father Jahangir, as the latter had revolted against Akbar, he succeeded to the throne on his father’s death in 1627. It was during his reign that the Mogul power attained its greatest prosperity. The chief events of his reign were the destruction of the kingdom of Ahmadnagar (1636), the loss of Kandahar to the Persians (1653), and a second war against the Deccan princes (1655). In 1658 he fell ill, and was confined by his son Aurangzeb in the citadel of Agra until his death in 1666.

Shah Jahan’s life, which began in 1592 with happy ceremonies, wouldn’t have ended in a more tragic way. He spent the last eight years of his life sequestered in a part of the Agra fort; only Jahanara, his sincere daughter was allowed to visit him. Yet His only consolation was that from his prison window, he could see his unique architectural work Taj Mahal, though he couldn’t visit.

During those eight years, Shah Jahan’s soul had always yearned for visiting Taj Mahal where his beloved wife lay buried and it only rested when he followed her and was at last buried beside her.

The period of his reign was the golden age of Indian architecture. Shah Jahan erected many splendid monuments, the most famous of which is the Taj Mahal at Agra, built as a tomb for his wife Mumtaz Mahal; while the Pearl Mosque at Agra and the palace and great mosque at Delhi also commemorate him. The celebrated Peacock Throne, said to have been worth 6,000,000 also dates from his reign; and he was the founder of the modern city of Delhi, the native name of which is Shahjahanabad.

Sambhaji Raje

  India's History : Medieval India : Execution of Sambhaji - 1689

Sambhaji's Execution

Early in 1685 Aurangzeb moved his armies to the south and invested Bijapur on 27th March. Bijapur capitulated on 12th September 1686. Golkonda was then invaded on 28th January 1687 and was captured on 1st October 1687. During the course of these invasions, the main attention of the emperor had been withdrawn from the Maratha country. Prince Akbar again and again urged Sambhaji to make a sudden sweep upon the emperor's central camp and effecting a complete rout of his powerful armies. But either Sambhaji was half-hearted in his promises to Akbar or he did not feel himself equal to that task so that a magnificent opportunity was lost. Akbar therefore in sheer desperation gave up his attempts to secure the throne and escaped to Iran where he reached in January 1688. During Aurangzeb's campaign against Bijapur and Golkonda Sambhaji kept his residence at Panhala and shortly before in the beginning of 1685 his troops passing through Ahmadnagar district devastated the Moghal territory from Aurangabad to Burhanpur carrying away enormous booty. But now Aurangzeb was free to devote his entire resources against Sambhaji and one of the Moghal Generals Sharza Khan invaded Satara district.

A kind of encircling movement began against Sambhaji and on 1st February 1689 Sambhaji was trapped at Sangameshwar. The news was received by the emperor at Akluj. He at once left Akluj and proceeded to Bahadurgad where the captives were brought under the guard of Hamiduddin Khan. Under emperor's order Sambhaji was made a mark of public ridicule. Four miles away from the camp Sambhaji and Kavi Kalash were dressed as buffoons in long fool's caps with bells fixed on them. They were then mounted on camels and brought to Babadurgad where they were slowly paraded through the entire camp and brought before the emperor after which they were removed to their cell. Next day Aurangzeb sent Ruhulla Khan to Sambhaji making him an offer of his life on condition that

(1) he surrendered all his forts,
(2) disclosed all his hidden treasures and
(3) declared the names of those Mughal officers who were in league with him.

Sambhaji whose heart was swelling under the insults heaped upon him spurned the offer and loosened his tongue in abuse of the emperor and his prophet. The consequences were obvious. The helpless prisoners were cruelly tortured and then removed from Bahadurgad to Koregaon where they were executed on 11th March 1689.


  India's History : Medieval India : Death of Rajaram - 1700


During the years that followed the death of Sambhaji, the Marathas continued at intervals to plunder Ahmadnagar territories. If it was the emperor's idea that, Maratha resistance could be stifled after the death of Sambhaji, he was entirely wrong. Under the leadership of Rajaram who was proclaimed king, Ramchandrapant Amatya, Pralhad Niraji, Sahtaji Ghorpade, Dhanaji Jadhav and other Maratha noblemen carried on the struggle against the Moghal invaders inspite of the fall of Rayagad and capture of Yesubai and Shahu, the son of Sambhaji. The Marathas carried the war into the very heart of Moghal territory, the theatre of war stretching from Burhanpur in the north to Jinji in the south, which Rajaram had put up as his headquarters. The Maratha commanders destroyed the Moghal field armies and crippled the material resources of the Moghal generals. It was difficult for the emperor to cope with the Maratha system of warfare.

In 1699 under Raiaram the combined Maratha troops entered Gangthadi claiming the chauth or one-fourth and the sardeshmukhi or extra tenth as their established right. All who submitted to these demands were protected, such of the Moghal garrisons who remained passive were not molested, and those who opposed were put to the sword. On this occasion the Maratha exactions were unusually systematic. Where they could not secure ready money they took promissory notes from the heads of villages according to the practice introduced by Shivaji. When he had nearly completed his tour Rajaram left Haibatrav Nimbalkar in Gangthadi to collect what they termed the outstanding balances. Haibatrav, when appointed to this duty, was styled Sar Lashkar, and received the Jari Patka or golden streamer. At this moment of triumph, the Maratha nation suffered a tragic loss in the death of Rajaram who found the strain of camp-life unbearable. He died at Sinhgad on 2nd March 1700. After the death of Rajaram, Dhanaji Jadhav spread his horse in every quarter and performed many signal exploits.

Rajarams’s reign was an eventful one paving the way for the future greatness of the Marathas. Credit goes to his wise councilors and brave generals. A significant change in military administration by him was the system of granting lands to the military commanders in lieu of cash as followed by Shivaji. This single change was greatly responsible for the expansion and the fall of the Maratha Empire. Rajaram died in 1700 to be succeeded by his 4 yr old son Shivaji III whose mother was Tarabai. A capable administrator, she inspired valor amongst her followers, guided military operations moving to different forts.

And so ended the reign of Shivaji and Rajaram. Shivaji laid the foundations for the Maratha Empire and the Peshwas capitalized on his efforts.

Death of Aurangzeb

  India's History : Medieval India : Death of Aurangzeb - 1707

End of the Emperor

Of all the men who sat upon the throne in Delhi no name evokes such an image of somber grandeur as that of Aurangzeb. His rule, which stretched across nearly half a century of Indian history, ended with his death in 1707. Despite Aurangzeb's personal hostility to the arts and his removal of the seat of government to the south, Delhi remained an artistic and cultural center and the foremost city of the empire.

Accession of Baji Rao Peshwa at Poona

  India's History : Medieval India : Accession of Baji Rao Peshwa at Poona - 1720

Bajirao Peshwa

Baji Rao Peshwa became Peshwa at the age of 20. There was criticism against appting a person so young but Raja Shahu was committed to the appt. Besides by the circumstances of his upbringing and inclination, he lacked the will to assert himself and be bothered about the details of administration. The subsequent Maratha rulers refused to accept the treaty of 1719 referred to above, accept Maratha claims on Gujarat and Malwa. The Nizam, Mir Qamar-ud-din used the Marathas to overcome his Mughal rivals but refused to cooperate with the Marathas in recovering chauth from Karnatak. Attempting to break away from the Marathas shackles he shifted capital from Aurangabad to Hyderabad.

Eventually the Nizam was overcome in 1728 in the battle of Palkhed. The Peshwa marched towards Aurangabad but avoided taking the enemy headon. Instead he moved towards Gujarat with the Nizams army in hot pursuit. The pursuit was abandoned in the hilly tract and the Nizam occupied Pune instead. The Peshwa now attacked the Nizams capital, Aurangabad and was challenged for action in a waterless tract near Palkhed. Starved of food and water, the Nizam sent word to the Peshwa asking for peace.

The growing ambition of Bajirao coupled with the independent streak of the various chieftains was bound to result in conflict, the area being Gujarat. While the Peshwa, elated by his victories was in no mood to give up claims on Northern Gujarat, others like the Gaikwars, Bhonsle, Pawars were opposed to the Peshwa’s designs. At this stage the young Dabhade made a tactical blunder of holding secret negotiations with the Nizam to seek his help. Getting a whiff of this, the Peshwa invaded Gujarat and defeated the combined forces of the Senapati / Nizam. This victory form a landmark in the history of the Peshwa’s as it left them without a rival at home. Through a series of attacks on the Sidis of Janjira ( near Mumbai), the Peshwa reduced the territories under their control and became in all but name a tributary of the Marathas.

Realizing the weakness of the Mughal empire, the Peshwa pursued his northward expansion drive with zeal. He brought Malwa, Gujarat and Bundelkhand ( parts of Western, central U.P.) under Maratha control, thereby, for the first time in the history of Bharat making Deccan as the point of controlling Hindustan. In October 1730, Malhar rao Holkar and Ranoji Sindia were granted the jagir of Malwa with them making Indore and Ujjain their headquarters. The Peshwa’s march to Delhi started with his arrival in northern Bundelkhand just about 70 kms of Agra. Malhar Rao Holkar lost to the Governor of Avadh, S Khan forcing the Peshwa to make a tactical retreat. While the Mughals were celebrating their victory, the Peshwa took a detour through modern day Haryana and descended on Delhi. On reaching Delhi he changed his mind and decided not to attack. Through some misunderstanding, the Mughals attacked the Peshwa’s forces only to be routed. The successful march had led to a surge in the Peshwa’s reputation and generated awe in the enemy’s camps.

Unable to accept the growing might of the Peshwa’s, the Mughals invited the Nizam and other Rajput chiefs to join hands and push the Peshwa to south of the Narmada. Through a series of strategic moves, the Peshwa’s cut off supply lines to the various parts of this alliance, defeated them and forced the Nizam to beg the signing a treaty in 1738. Called the victory of Bhopal, it marks the zenith of the Peshwa’s career. It also implied the arrival of a new power in Hindustan. The Nizam failed to keep his promise of ratifying the terms of the treaty. Serious doubts assailed the mind of the Peshwa’s strategy that allowed the Nizam to escape in 1728 ( Palkhed ) and 1738 ( Bhopal ).

While Bajirao was overrunning Hindustan, his brother Chimnaji Appa defeated the Portuguese in 1740 ending their rule in North Konkan. The persecution of all those who did not conform to the Christian doctrine forced the Hindu leaders to secretly invite the Portuguese to free them of foreign rule. The conquest of Bassein was long cherished by the Marathas as a matter of national pride and glory.

The last few years of the Bajirao’s life were clouded by domestic discord. He was fond of a mistress and drank, ate meat in her company. He passed away in 1740. In the words of Sir Richard Temple, “ he died as he lived, in camp under canvas among his men and he is remembered to this day among the Marathas as the fighting Peshwa and the incarnation of Hindu energy.”

Besides securing the Deccan, he was the first Marath to go on the offensive in Hindustan. If Shivaji created a Maratha state, Bajirao transformed it into an empire. While he extracted revenue ably, he paid no heed to the problems of governance. He was a matchless cavalry leader but not a statesmen, far sighted reformer. The Jagir system vested more money in the hands of satraps like Holkars making Bajirao die with a debt of Rs 14 lacs. A centralized monarchy might have changed history. Net net, he gave the Maratha state stability, secured its freedom and opened prospects for expansion.

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