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Shah Jahan revolts against Jahangir

Shah Jahan revolts against Jahangir

  India's History : Medieval India : Shah Jahan revolts against Jahangir - 1623

The History

Jahangir was crowned emperor by his father when the latter had been on his deathbed in 1605. He had to face the usual share of revolts and rebellions. The very first one being from prince Khusro, in which he was in good company – for Khusro revolted when Jahangir's son, Shah Jahan, came to the throne as well. The single most important person in Jahangir's life was his wife, the enigmatic Nur Jahan, whom he married in 1611.

Nur Jahan was the real power behind Jahangir. She was a great queen, and a woman of amazing gifts. She was quite a beauty and set many trends in designs of clothes, textiles and jewellery. The attar (perfume) of roses was just one of this great lady's innovations. She was also a very capable and shrewd administrator. No detail, however small, escaped the queen's attention. Her ability to keep a cool head was almost legendary and she amazed even battle-hardy generals with her calm and poise in the middle of crisis. She has been accused of nepotism and of giving rise to a class of nobility which composed entirely of her kith and kin, but that she was entirely in control is clear from the fact that she rebuked even her brother when she thought so fit. Jahangir often remarked: "I have sold my kingdom to my beloved queen for a cup of wine and a bowl of soup."

However, Nur Jahan was not without failings and her biggest was ambition, not only for herself but for her child – a daughter from earlier marriage. She tried her best to keep the king and the rightful heir Shah Jahan separated and to make her daughter's husband the king. However, this was one project that Nur Jahan could not complete with success.

The Revolt

Jahangir was not a mere figurehead in his kingdom. He led his armies into battle a number of times and extended the frontiers of his empire further down in the Deccan, although he lost Kandhar. This loss, however, was not his fault but that of the bitter in-fighting between Shah Jahan and his stepmother. Nur Jahan ordered Shah Jahan to move in battle against a rebellion there, but the prince, suspicious of her motives, refused and revolted against Jahangir instead. The emperor got so occupied with his family affairs that he simply forgot about winning Kandhar back, even though it would have been a matter of just a few days siege.

Things became so bad that Jahangir had to resort to the extreme measure of kidnapping his own grandchildren away to Kashmir with him to stop his son. Depsite all this however Shah Jahan, being a huge favorite with the nobility, safely ascended the throne in 1627, when Jahangir died.

Shah Jahan - The Emperor

  India's History : Medieval India : Shah Jahan proclaimed Emperor - 1628

Shah-Jahan (1628-58)

Shah Jahan ascended the throne in 1628 and assumed the title of Abul Muzaffar Shahbuddin Muhammad Sahib-i Kiran-i Sani. His reign opened with the execution of his brothers and nephews. In the first year of his reign Shah Jahan had to face the rebellion of Jujhar Singh, son of Bir Singh Deo, the Bundela chief who was responsible for murder of Abul Fazl. He made encroachment on the Mughal territory and showed signs of rebellion. Initially he surrendered to the Mughal army but he revolted again in 1635. Later he was pursued by the Mughal troops and killed by the Gonds.

The revolt of Khan Jahan Lodi in 1628 gave much more trouble to Shah Jahan than the Bundela rising. He entered into an alliance with the ruler of Ahmednagar and revolted. Shah Jahan realized the gravity of the situation and decided to personally supervise the operation. But ultimately in 1630 Khan Jahan had to give up & died near the fort of Kalanjar.

With Shah Jahan’s accession to the throne, the Deccan policy of the Mughals entered a new phase. Apart from political differences, the Deccan rulers had pronounced Shiahite learnings and were suspected of allegiance to the Shia rulers of Persia. The death of Malik Ambar came as a blessing to the Mughals.

In 1630 his son Fath Kan the minister of Ahmadnagar put the king in confinement and later killed him. In 1631 the Mughal army laid siege on Bijapur but were compelled to raise it after twenty days for lack of provisions. Finally in 1633 the Mughals won the fort of Daulatabad & the Nizam Shahi kingdom came to an end. But Shah Jahan’s imperialistic designs could not be satisfied without crushing Bijapur and Golconda. He called upon the rulers of these countries to acknowledge his suzerainty. Abdullah Qutb Shah of Golconda formally recognized the suzerainty of Shah Jahan but the king of Bijapur was not ready to barter away his independence. But ultimately Adil Shah of Bijapur had t acknowledge the over lordship of the emperor & was allowed to retain his ancestral kingdom. Having thus settled the state affairs in the Deccan in 1636 Shah Jahan retired to Agra. Aurangzeb was appointed the Governor of The Deccan & he occupied that post for eight years (1636-44). During this period, Aurangzeb annexed Bagalna near Nasik and reduced the power of Shahji. In 1653, Aurangzeb was appointed the Governor of the Deccan for the second time. He remained in the post till 1657.

In September 1657, Shah Jahan fell ill. The physicians were not hopeful about his recovery. As soon as the news of his illness reached his sons they started making preparations for capturing the throne. In 1658 Aurangzib took over & imprisoned his father. Ultimately in 1666 he did in captivity.

Undoubtedly, Shah Jahan was one of the greatest rulers of the Mughals. The Mughal empire reached its greatest prosperity in the reign of Shah Jahan. As a emperor he led a strenuous life. He personally supervised the minutest details of the administration and appointed men of highest ability as his minister. He was an orthodox musalman but was never unfair to his non-Muslim subjects. He considerably increased the royal retinue, the state-establishments and the magnificence of the court. The Peacock throne, the Taj Mahal, the Agra Fort and numerous other works of architecture and art testify to his wealth as well as his aesthetic sense. He was an excellent calligraphist. His patronage of men of letters and of artisans and craftsmen was in keeping with the traditions of his family. Poetry, music, painting, dancing, astronomy, mathematics and medicine flourished under the generous and intelligent patronage of the emperor.

Aurangzeb - The viceroy of Deccan

  India's History : Medieval India : Aurangzeb appointed Viceroy of Deccan - 1636


Aurangzeb was the greatest king among the Mughals and ruled over the largest territory of any ruler in Indian history. His empire extended from Kabul in present Afghanistan to areas in South India bordering Madurai in present Tamil Nadu State. He was a kind-hearted man and led a simple life. He was a just ruler and forgave his enemies. He abolished all non-Islamic practices at his court; abolished Ilahi calendar introduced by Akbar and reinstated Islamic lunar calendar. He enforced laws against gambling and drinking. He abolished taxes on commodities and inland transport duties. He forbade the practice of Emperor being weighed in gold and silver on birthdays. Aurangzeb did not draw salary from state treasury but earned his own living by selling caps he sewed and selling copies of the Quran he copied by hand.

Birth and Education

Mohyuddin Muhammad Aurangzeb was born on October 24, 1618 CE at Dohad in the Bombay Presidency. He was the third son of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal. Aurangzeb was nine years old when his father became Emperor of India. From that time on, his regular education began. He got good education in religion as well as the ordinary education of that time. He memorized the whole Quran and was taught to write in a beautiful handwriting. He also developed a taste for poetry and could make verses. He also learned the Arabic language.

Military Training

His military training began by age 16. When Aurangzeb was seventeen, he was made the Viceroy of Deccan. Aurangzeb worked well as the Viceroy of Deccan. This didn't still bring peace to his mind. He wanted a purpose of life. After some thought, he turned to the Quran as a light for his life.

Life as a Faqir

In May 1644 CE, he gave up his duties as the Viceroy of Deccan and left to live in the wild region of Western Ghats. Here he lived for several months as a Faqir (poor, simple man). He took up a life of prayer and self-disciplined life.

Anger of his Father

This action of Aurangzeb brought great anger to his father, the Emperor. He was so shocked that his son became a Faqir that he stopped all his allowances and took his estates. This didn't bother Aurangzeb at first. After some thought though, Aurangzeb decided to go back to his family. For some months, Aurangzeb lived in Agra with disgrace. His mother and sisters felt sorry for him but the Emperors displeasure was hard to go.

Regaining his Rank

In November 1644 CE, his sister, Jahan Ara, who was the eldest and best-loved daughter of the Emperor, got a terrible burn and when she recovered, the Emperor, who was so happy, could not refuse her anything. At her request, Aurangzeb was raised back to his rank. The prince was again the Viceroy of Deccan.

Shivaji Maharaj

  India's History : Medieval India : Shivaji captures Torna - 1646

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj (1627-1680)

Shivaji was born of a Maratha family in 1627 A.D. His father was a chief of the kingdom of Bijapur. Though he was high up, he was not allowed to control any fort. In his early youth, Shivaji inspired the local peasant youths around Poona to follow him in his idealistic pursuits.

In his early, his band attacked the mountain fort of Torna about twenty miles from Poona. He took control from the fort as Governor. It was characteristic of him immediately send a word to the King of Bijapur, that he had done purely in the king's interest as the ex-governor was not given all the revenue due to the king. This brought more time, and Shivaji used this technique of cunningness to conquer more and more such forts. The king eventually ordered Shivaji to stop these activities. But Shivaji knew that by now the whole region was behind him and thus ignored any warnings from the King of Bijapur.

The King then sent a small army under Afzal Khan to catch him dead or alive. Shivaji now portrayed even more cunning techniques. He pretended to be extremely afraid of Afzal Khan and his army, and offered to surrender personally to him provided his well-being was guaranteed. He suggested that he should be accompanied by two unarmed followers to meet Afzal Khan and two of his guards personally. This was agreed to. When the meeting took place, Afzal Khan (a big, stocky and giant of a figure, compared to short and agile figure of Shivaji) tried to kill Shivaji with a big embrace and stab at Shivaji. Shivaji was however prepared with a short knife under his palm. With a swift action, he slayed the giant.

When the ruler in Delhi heard of this he sent his general Shaista Khan to suppress this uprising which was gaining momentum at great speed. Shivaji had to abandon temporarily the plains to a much more powerful Moghul army. With the help of the locals, he could enter into the living quarters of the general with his followers and created chaos. He had caused irreversible injury to the generals’ body and pride, so much so that he was recalled to Delhi.

Due to requirement of maintaining a large army, Shivaji felt the need of finance. His next crusade was to loot the Mughal city of Surat, which was the centre of the rich, traders from all over. He is likened here to Robin Hood here. No injury to women, children of elderly was ever caused. This wealth gave Shivaji sufficient wherewithal to continue his crusade.

This time the Mughal emperor sent a vast army under its senior general, Jai Singh. After a few skirmishes Shivaji thought it prudent nominally to accept the emperor's sovereignty and offered to come to court itself to pay homage. The trick worked and his army remained intact. He proceeded to Agra to present himself at the mughal court. However the perfidious emperor arrested him. As is well known, Shivaji tricked his jailors and escaped. By the time he returned to Poona, his army was in good condition. This was his opportunity to give a crushing defeat to the retreating armies.

Shivaji drew strength from the guidance of his guru, Guru Ramdas who together with mata Jijabai in his young life, made him a national hero.

Now Shivaji had an unquestioned sway over a big area. Fort Raigad was to become the centre of power and prowess. During the coronation ceremony he gave magnificent gifts to holy men and the poor. He died after three years. His son could not amass sufficient strength to finish the work of liberation throughout Bharat. Nevertheless, Shivaji had laid the foundation of a great Hindu empire which lasted for two centuries.

Tanaji Malusare

  India's History : Medieval India : Shivaji - Tanaji Malusare

Tanaji Malusare

Tanaji Malusare, also known as Simha ("the Lion"), was a renowned warrior and military leader in the army of Shivaji, a maharaja of Maharashtra in 17th century India.

Tanaji was one of the very close friends of Maharaja Shivaji, and the two had known each other since childhood. In 1672, Tanaji pledged to recapture the fortress of Kondhana (near Pune) at Shivaji's request.

Kondhana was a well-defended stronghold located at the top of steep cliffs, and was considered to be nearly impossible to capture by force.

Eventually, however, Tanaji's forces managed to scale the cliffs during the night, and were able to take the fortress.

Tanaji himself, however, was killed in the attack. When Shivaji learned of his friend's death, he remarked "gad ala pan Simha gela", meaning "the fortress was won, but the Lion was lost". The fortress of Kondhana was renamed Simhagad in Tanaji's honour.


Simhagad (formally know as Kondhana) one of the stratergic fortresses which were captured by Shivaji during the expansion of his Kingdom.

The seige was laid by one of his chieftains know as Tanaji Malusare who was killed during the course of the battle. The Fort was renamed in his honour.


Pratapgad Fort

Arnala Fort

Janjira Fort

Lohgad Fort

Purandar Fort

Raigad Fort

Sindhudurg Fort

Suvarnadurg Fort

Shiv Samadhi

Timeline of Shivaji Maharaj

  India's History : Medieval India : Shivaji - Timeline of Shivaji Maharaj

 1627 - Shivaji born in the hill fort of Shivner.

 1643-47 - Shivaji overran the hill forts of Kondana, Torana and Raigarh.

 1647 - Shivaji's Guardian Dadaji Khondev died.

 1656 - Shivaji conquered Javli from Chandra Rao More.

 1657 - Shivaji came into conflict with the Moghuls for the first time by making raids into Ahmednagar.

 1659 - Afzal Khan of Bijapur was killed by Shivaji.

 1660 - Moghul Governor Shaista Khan occupied Pune

 1663 - Shivaji made an attack on Shaistakhan's harem and wounded him.

 1664 - Shivaji raided and looted Surat.

 1665 - Jai Singh besieged the fort of Purandar and forced Shivaji to sign the treaty of Purandar.

 1666 - Shivaji escaped from Agra.

 1670 - Shivaji attacked Surat for the second time.

 1674 - Shivaji crowned himself at Raighad and assumed the title of Maharaja Chhatrapati.

 1676 - Shivaji's last campaign against Jijapuri Karnataka. Captured Jinji and Vellore.

 1680 - Shivaji died.

Emperor Aurangzeb

  India's History : Medieval India : Coronation of Aurangzeb - 1658

Prelude to Aurangzeb's Reign

Shah Jahan was a bigoted Muslim and a confirmed nepotist. He provided for the imperial princes before anyone else in the matter of administrative and judicial postings regardless of age, capability and talent. He also started the practice of conferring the cream of the offices on each prince; like Dara Shikoh was made the governor of Punjab and Multan, Aurangzeb was appointed governor of all the four provinces of the Deccan and so on. This might have been just a clever way to keep them occupied, but that was not how the nobility viewed it. The nobles saw this, and rightfully so, as an obstacle in the path of their promotions.

However, the end of Shah Jahan's reign did not live up to the beginning; it saw one of the messiest battles of succession (also see History in Delhi) that Indian history ever witnessed. In September 1657, Shah Jahan fell ill. The prognosis was so unoptimistic that the rumors had it that the emperor was dead. This was enough to spark off intense intrigue in the court. All the four claimants to Shah Jahan's throne were the children of the same mother – although one would never have guessed that from their temperaments and their determination to make it to the throne.

In 1657, Dara Shikoh was 43, Shah Shuja 41, Aurangzeb 39 and Murad 33. All of them were governors of various provinces: Dara was the governor of Punjab, Murad of Gujrat, Aurangzeb of the Deccan and Shah Shuja of Bengal. Two of them emerged clear frontrunners in the battle for the throne quite early: Dara Shikoh and Aurangzeb.

Aurangzeb was with doubt the ablest of Shah Jahan's sons and a clear favorite for the throne. His credentials both in battle and administration were legendary. He was also an orthodox Muslim of the oldest school possible, which made him a hot favorite with the clergy.

As stated earlier, the actual events, which unfolded around Shah Jahan’s illness, were confused. Aiding and abetting the confusion with every word and gesture, for his own aims and purposes, was the favorite son Dara Shikoh. Aurangzeb did not waste much time. Acting on Dara Shikoh's behalf, Aurangzeb along with Murad met the Mughal armies twice in battle, and beat them each time while moving on relentlessly towards Agra, where Shah Jahan was convalescing.

When Shah Jahan heard of Aurangzeb's advance, he expressed a wish to meet Aurangzeb and talk to him. It was the emperor's belief that upon seeing him alive, his son would turn on his heels and go back. Clearly the old king had been ailing only in body and not in mind, for certainly the appearance of Shah Jahan himself would have laid to rest the whole issue of succession. Even the most ardent of Aurangzeb's supporters would have had second thoughts about defying the great Mughal's authority openly.

However, Dara Shikoh lacked the potentate's easy confidence in his son. He was not so convinced that Aurangzeb would meekly go back to where he had come from once the king had reassured him. In panic he also gave out that he was the heir-apparent.

So with suspicion and rumours ruling the day and power having the last laugh, Aurangzeb was the most amused of them all. Within a year he had all his brothers out of the way, father permanently in custody in the Agra Fort (where he hung on for eight years before dying in 1666) and was firmly entrenched on the Mughal throne.

If Shah Jahan has been over-romanticized by scholars, his son and successor Aurangzeb has been unduly denigrated. Aurangzeb, it seems, could do nothing right. Later writers were to contrast his bigotry with Akbar's tolerance, his failure against the Marathas rebels with Akbar's successes against the Rajputs; in fact he has been set up as the polar opposite of everything that earned one the Akbarian medal of genius. One writer has said about him, rather tongue-in-cheek, "His life would have been a blameless one, if he had no father to depose, no brothers to murder and no Hindu subjects to oppress."

This picture of him has left such an impact on popular imagination that even today he is regarded as the bad guy of the Mughal regime, the evil king who slayed all Hindus and Sikhs. Hardly anyone remembers that he governed India for nearly as long as Akbar did (over 48 years) and that he left the empire larger than he found it. In fact, Aurangzeb ruled the single largest state ever in Mughal history.

Aurangzeb's rise to the throne has been criticised as being ruthless. However, he was no crueler than others of his family. He succeeded not because he was crueler but because he was more efficient and more skilled in the game of statecraft with its background of dissimulation; and if it's any consolation, he never shed unnecessary blood. Once established, he showed himself a firm and capable administrator who retained his grip of power until his death at the age of 88. True, he lacked the magnetism of his father and great-grandfather, but commanded an awe of his own. In private life he was simple and even austere, in sharp contrast to the rest of the great Mughals. He was an orthodox Sunni Muslim who thought himself a model Muslim ruler.

Aurangzeb's Reign

Aurangzeb's reign really divides into two almost equal portions.

The first twenty-three years were largely a continuation of Shah Jahan's administration with an added footnote of austerity. The emperor sat in pomp in Delhi or progressed in state to Kashmir for the summer. From 1681 he virtually transferred his capital to the Deccan where he spent the rest of his life in camp, superintending the overthrow of the two remaining Deccan kingdoms in 1686-7 and trying fruitlessly to crush the Maratha rebellion. The assured administrator of the first period became the embattled, embittered old man of the second. Along with the change of occupation came a dramatic metamorphosis of character. The scheming and subtle politician became an ascetic; spending long hours in prayer, fasting and copying the Quran, and pouring out his soul in tortured letters. It was in the second or the Deccan phase of his career that Aurangzeb began to drift towards complete intolerance of Hindus. Earlier his devotion towards Islam had very rarely taken the form of any religious bigotry. Now all that changed – the very king who had ordered in February 1659 that "It has been decided according to our cannon law that long standing temples should not be demolished… our Royal Command is that you should direct that in future no person shall in unlawful ways interfere with or disturb the Brahmins and other Hindu residents in those places" became a total fanatic.

In this zealousness to promote the cause of Islam, Aurangzeb made many fatal blunders and needless enemies. He alienated the Rajputs, whose valuable and trusted loyalty had been so hard won by his predecessors, so totally that they revolted against him. Eventually he managed to make peace with them, but he could never be easy in his mind about Rajputana again, a fact that hampered his Deccan conquest severely. Then, he made bitter enemies in the Sikhs and the Marathas. Things came to such a head that Guru Teg Bahadur, the 9th Guru of the Sikhs was at first tortured and then executed by Aurangzeb for not accepting Islam; a martyrdom which is mourned to this day by the Sikh community. The 10th Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Govind Singh then raised an open banner of revolt against Aurangzeb.

No, Great-grandfather Akbar would certainly not have approved or been amused. He would have raised his imperial eyebrows at such a royal mess and sharply rebuked Aurangzeb for squandering away what he had worked so hard to achieve. Deccan or no Deccan.

Aurangzeb ended his lonely embittered life in Aurangabad in 1707. Perhaps with relief, but surely with much grief too for surely he knew that with him set the glorious sun that was the Mughal dynasty.

Many directly blame Aurangzeb and his destructive policies, which eroded the faith of the subjects in the Mughals for this. However, this is by far an overstatement. Whatever might have been Aurangzeb's policies, he remained very much the emperor till his dying breath in 1707. True, his policies did lead to resentment; even at the end of Shah Jahan's reign the rot had set in. Aurangzeb in fact tried to stop it and did a good band-aid job for a little while, but then things just went haywire with his persistent Deccan devil.

Deccan wrung Aurangzeb the man, the king, the father and the believer out of all softer emotions and decorum. He simply lost all sense of balance. He alienated a sizeable portion of his subjects along with allies and employees and made completely unnecessary enemies, which cost his successors dearly. He tried during his lifetime to put down rebellions all over his empire (the Marathas, the Sikhs, the Satnamis and the Rajputs) by one hand while trying to take Deccan with the other. However, it was like trying to put out a wild fire. Ultimately, it was these alternative power blocs, which were cropping up all over the country that sped up the fall of the Mughals. Not to mention the foreign powers who were already among those present: the British stretching their legs in Calcutta, the Portuguese in Goa and the French testing waters in the South.

Of course, it did not help matters that the successors of the great Mughals were weak and unworthy of their forefathers. But that was bound to happen some time or the other, wasn't it? So, from the late-18th century the field was wide open for any new power that wanted to try to set up shop in India.

This was the time when a certain East India Company suddenly realized that they had stumbled upon a gold mine.

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