The Mughal Empire

1.      Who were the Mughals?

a.       Mughal Empire in India has received more scholarly attention than any other period of time, Mughals more than any other group.  Partly because of brilliant cultural legacy of art, music, architecture; also reflects tendency to view history from the perspective of the most powerful rulers, rather than from the standpoint of the mass population.

b.      Tradition of the nomadic warrior clans that periodically swooped down from the grasslands and deserts of Central Asia and either plundered and raided the settled agricultural civilizations or succeeded in conquering them. Not only India, but China, Eastern Europe, and the fertile crescents of the Middle East also experienced such attacks and invasions.

2.      Mughal Rulers

a.       Babur (1483-1530) conquered northern India, established the Mughal empire.

b.      Policies toward non-Muslims

                                                  i.      Muhammad and immediate successors: uncompromising, harsh

                                                ii.      Harsh policy toward the local population: Hindus and Buddhists were not “true believers”, so Muslim warriors plundered and destroyed many local shrines and killed or drove off the monks and nuns.  Buddhism never quite recovered from that blow.

                                              iii.      Many conversion to Islam (some forced, some voluntary). Many members of lower castes sought to escape social discrimination through conversion.

                                              iv.      In time, some Muslim rulers granted more tolerance to Hindus.

c.       Akbar (ruled 1556-1605): Grandson of Babur, extended Mughal control over most of India.

                                                  i.      Religious tolerance.

                                                ii.      The “Divine Faith”

                                              iii.      Fatehpur Sikri

d.      Shah Jahan (ruled 1628-1658) restored Islam as the state religion.

                                                  i.      Golden age of Mughal art.  Delhi as the seat of his government - palaces, mosques, forts. 

                                                ii.      Mumtaz and the Taj

                                              iii.      Struggle for succession between his sons.

e.       Aurangzeb:  revival of traditional Islamic practice

                                                  i.      Dara Shikoh: deeply influenced by Sufism, had several Hindu scriptures translated in to Persian.

1.      The Mingling of the Two Seas.

2.      Executed for heresy.  Considered a lover of Hinduism and enemy of Islam.

3.      Decline of the Mughal Empire

                                                  i.      Aurangzeb’s efforts to impose Islam weakened rather than strengthened the empire.  Corruption among government officials and oppression of the people led to widespread revolts against the central power.  Delhi was plundered by invader from Iran in 1793, followed by marauders from Afghanistan in 1757.  Sikhs seized power in the Punjab, Hindu and Muslim princes set up semi-independent states within the empire.  Increasing control by the British.  Exile of the last emperor in 1858