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Friday, January 15, 2010

Humayun recovers the throne of Delhi

Humayun recovers the throne of Delhi



  India's History : Medieval India : Humayun recovers the throne of Delhi - 1555

Sudden death of Sher Shah Suri

In 1545, after the accidental death ofSher Shah, his son Jalal Khan succeeded him. Jalal Khan got the title of Islam Shah, commonly known as Salim Shah. Islam Shah was as capable as his father and kept his father's kingdom intact. He followed his father's reforms and kept the army intact. Unfortunately, he ruled for only nine years. Following his death in November 1554, disorder followed. His minor son, Firuz Khan, was murdered by his maternal uncle, Mubariz Khan, and there was total confusion in the empire. Mubariz Khan took the throne and assumed the title of Muhammad Adil Shah.

Adil Shah was a worthless ruler. He left the affairs of the kingdom in the hands of his chief minister Hemu. Hemu was a capable man but his ambition to seize the throne did not draw his attention towards the disintegration of the kingdom. There were revolts in various parts. Sher Shah's nephew Sikander Sur declared himself independent in the Punjab.

Humayun re-conquers Delhi

This conflicting situation encouraged Humayun to make an attempt to restore the lost empire after about fifteen years. He got an army of 14,000 men from Persia and succeeded in conquering Kabul and Kandhahar with the help of Shah of Iran in 1545. In November 1554, he marched to reconquer Hindustan, for which he got an excellent opportunity in the civil wars among the surs. In February 1555, Humayun captured Lahore and then occupied Delhi. Thus he got back partially what he had lost due to his weakness. He appointed his son Akbar as governor of the Punjab and left his gallant general Bairam Khan to assist the young prince.

However Humayun could not enjoy his success for a longer time. On January 24, 1556, Humayun fell from the staircase of his library in Delhi and died. His son Akbar, who was only thirteen years old at that time, succeeded him.



Akbar The Great



  India's History : Medieval India : Accession of Akbar - 1556

Akbar - The Great

Akbar "The Great" [1542-1605], was one of the greatest rulers in Indian history. He was born when Humayun and his first wife, Hamida Bano, were fugitives escaping towards Iran. It was during these wanderings that Akbar was born in Umerkot, Sindh, on November 23, 1542. Legend has it that Humayun prophesied a bright future for his son, and thus accordingly, named him Akbar.

Akbar was raised in the rugged country of Afghanistan rather than amongst the splendor of the Delhi court. He spent his youth learning to hunt, run, and fight and never found time to read or write. He was the only great Mughal ruler who was illiterate. Despite this, he had a great desire for knowledge. This led him not only to maintain an extensive library but also to learn. Akbar had his books read out to him by his courtiers. Therefore, even though unable to read, Akbar was as knowledgeable as the most learned of scholars.

Akbar came to throne in 1556, after the death of his father, Humayun. At that time, Akbar was only 13 years old. Akbar was the only Mughal king to ascend to the throne without the customary war of succession; as his brother Muhammad Hakim was too feeble to offer any resistance.

During the first five years of his rule, Akbar was assisted and advised by Bahram Khan in running the affairs of the country. Bahram Khan was, however, removed and for a few years Akbar ruled under the influence of his nurse Maham Anga. After 1562, Akbar freed himself from external influences and ruled supreme.

Akbar’s Reign

Thanks to Akbar's exceptionally capable guardian, Bahram Khan, Akbar survived his father's death at a young age to demonstrate his worth. Akbar's reign holds a certain prominence in history; he was the ruler who actually fortified the foundations of the Mughal Empire.

Areas not under the empire were designated as tributaries. He also adopted a conciliatory policy towards the Rajputs, hence reducing any threat from them. Akbar was not only a great conqueror, but a capable organizer and a great administrator as well. He set up a host of institutions that proved to be the foundation of an administrative system that operated even in British India. Akbar's rule also stands out due to his liberal policies towards the non-Muslims, his religious innovations, the land revenue system and his famous Mansabdari system. Akbar's Mansabdari system became the basis of Mughal military organization and civil administration.

Akbar was a great patron of architecture, art, and literature. His court was rich in culture as well as wealth. In fact, his court was so splendid that the British monarch, Queen Elizabeth I, once even sent out her ambassador, Sir Thomas Roe, to meet the king! Many of Akbar's buildings still survive, including the Red Fort at Agra, and the city of Fatehpur Sikri, near Agra, which has a 10-km long wall encircling it.

It may come as a surprise for many that a great ruler like Akbar actually could not read or write! And yet, he had a tremendous love for learning. During his lifetime, Akbar collected thousands of beautifully written and illustrated manuscripts. He also surrounded himself with writers, scholars, musicians, painters, and translators. His court had the fabled Nine Gems - nine famous personalities from different walks of life. These included music maestro Tansen and intelligent statesman Birbal.

The reign of Akbar was a period of renaissance of Persian literature. The Ain-i-Akbari gives the names of 59 great Persian poets of Akbar's court. History was the most important branch of Persian prose literature. Abul Fazl's Akbarnama and Ain-i-Akbari were complementary works. Akbar and his successors, Jehangir and Shah Jehan greatly contributed to the development of Indian music. Tansen was the most accomplished musician of the age. Ain-i-Akbari gives the names of 36 first-rate musicians of Akbar's court where Hindu and Muslim style of music mingled freely. The Mughal architectural style began as a definite movement under his rule. Akbar's most ambitious and magnificent architectural undertaking was the new capital city that he built on the ridge at Sikri near Agra. The city was named as Fatehpur to commemorate Akbar's conquest of Gujrat in 1572. The most impressive creation of this new capital is the grand Jamia Masjid. The southern entrance to the Jamia Masjid is an impressive gateway known as Buland Darwaza.

Like most other buildings at Fatehpur Sikri, the fabric of this impressive gateway is of red sandstone that is decorated by carvings and discreet inlaying of white marble. Of all the Mughals, Akbar's reign was the most peaceful and powerful.

During his reign, Akbar managed to subdue almost all of India, with the remaining areas becoming tributary states. Along with his military conquests, he introduced a series of reforms to consolidate his power. Akbar practiced tolerance aimed at Hindu-Muslim unification through the introduction of a new religion known as Din-i-Ilahi. He won over the Hindus by naming them to important military and civil positions, by conferring honors upon them, and by marrying a Hindu princess.

He appointed nobles and mansabdars without any religious prejudice. Akbar's religious innovations and policies, and deviation from Islamic dogma, have been a source of debate and controversy. Akbar was a great patron of literary works and scholars. His court had numerous scholars of the day who are well known as "Nauratan".

Akbar himself appointed important regional officers answerable to him. He was able to set up a chain of informers, officials spied on their colleagues and reported any misdeeds or suspicious behaviour back to the emperor. Army commanders were given money with which to pay their soldiers and Akbar kept detailed records of every man's name and description. Even the horses were branded.

Akbar also introduced a new and fairer system of taxation based on carefully estimated tables of crop yields. Tax collectors had their own district tables and used them to work out how much grain the farmers should contribute. This contribution was then converted into its cash value, district by district, because food prices varied in different parts of the empire.

Akbar had three sons Prince Salim, Murad and Daniyal. Prince Murad and Daniyal died in their prime during their father's lifetime. However, Akbar faced problems with Prince Salim and the last four years of Akbar's life were consumed in crushing Salim's rebellion. Akbar fell ill and died of slow poisoning on October 27, 1605. With him ended the most glorious epoch in Indian history.

Akbar’s coinage

In the 30th year of his reign, Akbar, who was distanciating himself from Islam and searching for a universal religion, replaced the Hegira era dates by the Ilahi era (the "Divine" era) ones, calculated in solar years from the beginning of his reign. He dropped from the obverse of his coins the Muslim profession of faith and the expression "Allah akbar", "God is great" was substituted. He also suppressed his own name, or maybe not: the arabic expression on the obverse could also mean "Akbar is God"

Mughals, Akbar, 1556 to 1605 AD
square silver rupia, dated AH 995 (Hegira era), 1586 AD.

Mughals, Akbar, 1556 to 1605 AD
square silver 1/2 rupia, dated year 40 of the Ilahi era, 1594 AD.

Mughals, Akbar, 1556 to 1605 AD
copper tanka (2 dam), Bairata,
probably one of the heaviest copper coins (40.6 gr) ever struck in India by a Muslim ruler


Battle of Talikota



  India's History : Medieval India : Battle of Talikota - 1565

Battle of Talikota

After the death of Achyuta Raya in AD 1541, his son Venkatadri or Venkata-I ascended the throne, but could not reign long, and within six months the crown was passed to the nephew of Achyuta - Sadasiva. Sadasiva Raya was a mere puppet in the hand of his minister Rama Raya of the Aravidu dynasty. Rama Raya was able to restore the power of Vijayanagara, which had sunk after Krishna Devaraya's rule. The important policy of Rama Raya was to interfere in the quarrels among the Deccan Sultanates, in alliance first with one, and then with another.

He indeed was successful for the time being. This made him over confident and ultimately proved fatal. Meddling into the affairs of the Muslim states led to the combining of all the Muslim states against the Hindus and the combined forces faced each other in the Battle of Talikota. It was one of the most decisive battles in Indian history like the Panipat and the battle of Plassey. Hopes of Hindus were totally shattered with the defeat and the south India was once again opened for Muslim penetration till Marathas slowly rose to power.



Fall of Chittorgarh



  India's History : Medieval India : Fall of Chittor Garh - 1568

Fall of Chittorgarh

Mewar was the Rajput kingdom which did not ally with Akbar. In fact, it offended him by giving shelter to Baz Bahadur of Malwa. However Akbar did not keep quiet. Taking advantage of the death of the king Rana Sanga and the weakness of his son Udai Singh, Akbar besieged the fort of Chittor in October, 1567. Udai Singh fled to the hills leaving his kingdom. But the noble followers of Rana Sanga especially Jaimall and Patta fought continuously for four months till Jaimall was shot dead by Akbar and Patta also died. The death of their leaders disheartened the people. Finally Akbar stormed the fort of Chittor.

With the fall of Chittor, the other Rajputs who avoided the alliance with Akbar submitted to him. In 1569, Rai Sarjana Hara of Ranthambhor, Raja Ramchand, chief of Kalinjar in Bundelkhand surrendered. In 1570 the rulers of Bikaner and Jaisalmer submitted and also gave their daughters in marriage. Though the Mughals had captured Chittor, the capital of Mewar, in 1568, the larger part of the kingdom of Mewar was still held by Maharana Udai Singh. However Udai Singh maintained his independence though he lost his capital. The coronation of his brave and heroic son Rana Pratap Singh (Maharana Pratap) took place on 3rd of March 1572 amidst depressive circumstances. Against such odds as the limited resources, discontented kinmen and the hostile attitude of his brother Shakti Singh, Maharana Pratap decided to stand upto Akbar.



The Battle of Haldighati



  India's History : Medieval India : The Battle of Haldighati - 1576

Haldighati

The battle of Haldighati has gone down in the annals of Indian history as one which showcased the great valour of the Rajput troops led by their scion Rana Pratap. The result was indecisive, but the battle was truly symbolic of the raw courage, spirit of sacrifice, and loyalty of the Rajputs in their heroic defence of their motherland.

Location

Haldighati, is a small village in the Aravalli Hills about 44 km north of Udaipur and about 1,839 m. above sea level. Beyond this is Haldighati Pass, a narrow defile almost a kilometre in length, running south to northeast and finally ending in a broad plain. An interesting geographical feature of the pass is its soft yellow soil, which when crumbled resembles the turmeric (haldi), which gives the place its name. It was here that the famous Battle of Haldighati was fought on June 18, 1576 between Maharana PRATAP SINGH of Mewar and the Imperial army of Emperor Akbar of Delhi.

The Moghul and the Rajput

    

Haldighati, Battle of (June 18, 1576), a four-hour confrontation between the Imperial forces of Mughal Emperor AKBAR and Maharana PRATAP SINGH I (1572-1597) of Mewar. Despite it being an indecisive battle - an inglorious success of sorts for the Mughals and "a glorious defeat" for Mewar - it has entered the annals as one of the kingdom's most memorable episodes. By the mid 1500s, in his bid to rule all of India, Emperor Akbar had forced all Rajput kingdoms, except Mewar, to become part of his empire. Wanting to make this leading Rajput state obey, he tried force, but failed. Changing his tactics, throughout 1573 he sent a series of envoys to Pratap with a peace treaty. However, although Pratap was agreeable to signing it, he was emphatic that it had to be conciliation on his terms: he would not become subservient to any other ruler (particularly a foreigner) and Mewar would not sacrifice its independence. Frustrated and humiliated, Akbar gathered his armies together, placed them under the command of Mughal general Asaf Khan and Pratap's archenemy, fellow Rajput MAN SINGH of Amber, and gave the order to destroy Mewar. On May 3, the Mughals marched south towards the village of Haldighati where a pass accessed the terrain of Pratap Singh and his temporary capital of Kumbhalgarh.

The Battle

June 18, 1576. Before sunrise, the Mughal army was on the move. As dawn broke, the Bhil lookouts saw the huge force crossing the river and assembling near Khamnor. Pratap Singh moved his men into the neck of Haldighati Pass. They halted, prepared to wait for the opportune moment to strike. The legendary warrior was impressive in his helmet, and chain-armour over a white tunic (still preserved in Udaipur's City Palace Museum). He sat proudly upon Chetak, his handsome white Arab stallion that had been his closest ally in many battles. The horse was clad in colourful mail that ended with a mask resembling a grotesque elephant, designed to terrify an opponent's steed and to protect the horse from the enemy's war elephants, on the assumption that elephants will not harm younger elephants. Pratap clasped his huge sword in one hand; his other gripped the ancient banner of the House of Mewar, the crimson field with the golden face of the Sun God in the centre. The sun climbed higher. Faces ran with perspiration. The muffled thunder of the Mughal army came ever nearer. The ground began to tremble. Soon, a cloud of dust was rising above distant treetops, filtering the morning sun. The Maharana led his group into the larger phalanx of troops under Qazi Khan. His war elephants brought up the rear. There was immediate panic. As the rows of youths hailed arrows into the Mewar ranks, the surprised skirmishers baulked, then stumbled back across the uneven, rock-strewn terrain. Vicious thorn bushes tore into their skin and clothing. They collided headlong with the warrior youths. Chaos reigned. Horses screamed in fear. Swords slashed. Muskets cracked. Bows twanged; arrows ripped into bodies. Brave men uttered war cries; others their death howls.

A band of Mughal Rajputs turned and fled, straight into a line of troops moving in from the right. The dead and wounded of both sides began to clutter the pass. The ground was already running scarlet. Pratap's group galloped out of the defile and immediately clashed with Qazi Khan and the Sheikhzadas of Sikri. The onslaught was vicious; the enemy broke and fled and did not stop until they were at least 16 km beyond the river, where they were confronted by the rear guard. They re-formed for a new assault. Already Pratap and Chetak had sustained several wounds. Undaunted, the Maharana, holding high the crimson banner, led his men deeper into the enemy's ranks. A wall of the Emperor's war-elephants, brought forward to stop the advance of the Mewar elephants, halted his relentless victory charge. A stray musket ball killed the mahout of a Mughal elephant. Out of control, it ran amok, trampling all in its path. The opposing elephants impacted, huge tusks ripping into flanks, broadswords in trunks slicing open any unprotected flesh. Fighting off all comers, Pratap and his men pressed on into the heart of the enemy, trying to encounter Man Singh and the heavy artillery. The death of the first would throw the Mughal forces into disarray, and the loss of the artillery would at least neutralise the massive advantage the Mughals had over Mewar.

Above the din of battle, he heard a familiar war cry, and spun round in his saddle. Man Singh was standing in his elephant's howdah, trying to encourage his men to stem the rout by the Mewar warriors. Pratap spurred his steed to a determined gallop towards Man Singh. Lances, swords or arrows could not stop his fury. He cut his way through to the Mughal general. Chetak skidded to a halt, throwing up dust, but collided with the elephant's plate armour. He reared up against the huge beast, his forelegs glancing off its tusks. Man Singh was partly obscured by his mahout, but Pratap heaved his lance at the howdah. The weapon passed through the driver's body, killing him instantly, and smashed against the howdah's metal plates. Man Singh had disappeared. Thinking he had killed Man Singh, Pratap let out a triumphal cry of revenge. The uncontrolled elephant swung around in panic. The broadsword attached to its trunk slashed through the tendons of one of Chetak's hind legs.

Unaware of this, Pratap wheeled Chetak to rejoin his men. The horse now had the use of only three of his legs but, enveloped by the furore, he persisted valiantly. Man Singh had simply ducked behind the howdah's railing for protection. Moments later, he scrambled down on to the elephant's neck in a desperate effort to control its panicked rush through Mughal lines. Imperial cavalry, who had rushed to guard their commander, now surrounded Pratap. A Mughal officer, Bahlol Khan, charged the Maharana. Steel rang against steel. Pratap mustered his energy for one almighty blow. His heavy sword sliced through the Mughal's headpiece and, like a hot knife through soft butter, hewed straight down through the Mughal's body, even disembowelling his horse. Other Mughals were now on top of Pratap. Chetak was limping and stumbling. Pratap fought his way back to the main body of the Mewar force, which was steadily forcing the Mughals into retreat. Suddenly, a great commotion of kettledrums came from the rear of the Imperial ranks. Across the sea of bloodied, mud-caked bodies, the Rajputs saw the Mughal reserves making their entry. And, to Pratap's dismay, Man Singh followed closely at the head of battle-weary soldiers and horsemen.

Pratap's first impulse was to make another attempt to destroy the Rajput traitor, possibly meeting death in a blaze of glory. One of his officers, Jhala Man of Sadri, snatched the royal standard of Mewar from Pratap's hand, determined to fight a rear guard action until Pratap's army had reached the protection of the defile. "Ride swiftly to safety!" he yelled. Reluctantly but wisely, Pratap shouted an order to his remaining chiefs to take their men to the village of Koliyari, where arrangements had been made for treating the wounded.

Waving the Sun-God banner, Jhala rallied his men to meet the enemy's counter-attack, as the remainder of the Mewar army disappeared into the cover of the hills. Bringing up the rear, Pratap stopped upon an outcrop of rock. He turned to look back at the swirling dust haze that all but hid the horrendous spectacle of the battleground. Through it came the tumult of shots, the clashing swords, the cries of victory and death. For a few moments, he was able to follow the progress of his crimson banner. Then it, too, fell. An attendant came back and took Pratap's bridle. "We tarry too long, Highness." They continued on. Chetak was now limping badly. Pratap, too, was now faint from loss of blood; he had sustained seven severe wounds from musket, sword and lance.

Pratap was pursued by two Mughal horsemen but was saved by his brother, SAKTA. However, having carried his master to safety, Chetak died. Pratap joined the remainder of his men, recovered from his wounds, then continued his guerilla resistance (see PRATAP SINGH I, MAHARANA). Despite temporary victory for the Mughals, the battle of Haldighati is significant for the tenacity displayed by the Rajputs, allied with the Bhils, and the art of defensive mountain warfare which Maharana Pratap Singh perfected and which his successors were proud, and wise, to use.



Akbar invades Khandesh



  India's History : Medieval India : Akbar troops invade Khandesh - 1577

Akbar troops invade Khandesh

The annexation of Khandesh in 1601 by Akbar was an event of great military and economic importance in the history of Mughal India. Khandesh provided a territorial link between the north and the south. The Mughals realised this; they made use of its resources to promote, preserve and protect the imperial interests. The region, in fact, assumed far greater importance under the Mughals than it had under the Faruqis. For a century and a quarter (1601-1724), Khandesh as a Mughal province played a vital role in the history of medieval Deccan.


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