The Successors of Aurangzeb Alamgir
Death of Aurangzeb in 1707 brought a steady decline of the Mughal Empire as no remarkable successor ascended the throne and the Empire slipped away from the hands of Mughals and went to the very lap of British in the long run.
His strict religious policies infuriated the Sikhs, Hindus, and even Christians and their animosity increased manifold than what it was in the ages of his predecessors. He persecuted and tormented the leaders of other religions especially Sikhs to forcibly make them embrace Islam. Consequently, he left an enmity as his legacy besides the traditional war of accession after he breathed his last. He was followed by four sons: Azam, Moazzam, Akbar and Kambakhsh who were waiting to fell upon the throne. Though Aurangzeb had left his will for the division of the Empire among his sons but their lust for the whole empire made them wage against one another. Moazzam, the eldest son claimed the kingdom of Kabul whereas Azam proclaimed the rule of Deccan. The clash of interests brought two brothers to the battlefield at Jajau (south of Agra) in 1707. The forces of Azam had to face a humiliating defeat and Azam was brutally killed by his brother Moazzam. Moazzam became the ruler of Agra and captured the financial assets of the city. He defeated Kambakhsh in February 1708 and began an exclusive rule with the title of Bahadur Shah l or Shah Alam l.
The hostility of Sikhs in the age of Bahadur Shah l aggravated because of the policies of Aurangzeb, his father and they tuned to a political power named Khalsa from merely a sect of the Hinduism. Har Guru Gobind Singh inherited the deep devotion of his ancestors who was tortured to death by Aurangzeb. Known as the “heedless king”, Bahadur Shah l could not control the Sikhs revolting and fighting against him till his death in February 1712. His death gave birth to the war of accession among his sons: Jahandar Shah and Farrukhsiyar. Jahandar Shah succeeded to access the throne but after a few months Farrukhsiyar snatched his position. Zulfikar Khan and Saiyyeds of Barha became the real king makers and the princesses remained only as the puppets in their hands. The former canopied Jahandar Shah while the later supported Farrukhsiyar. Farrukhsiyar crushed the Sikhs led by Banda Singh on the same lines of his father resulting in the atrocious death of Banda Singh.
Farrukhsiyar was killed in 1719 and Saiyyeds put Mohammad Shah on the throne in October 1719 who ruled till 1748 and led to the disintegration of the Mughal Empire. Deccan came under the governorship of Chin Kalich Khan, the son of Aurangzeb’s officer and Oudh went to the hands of Saadat Khan who claimed Oudh. Rohilas captured Rohilkhand and Ali Wardi Khan, the governor of Bengal showed his practical independence. Balaji Viswanath, a Hindu Brahman who was entrusted as Peshwa in 1714 by Shahu Raja, was followed by his son Bajji Rao who enjoyed high status in the Maratha government. Bajji Rao died in 1740 and his son came into influence and their rule stayed till 1818.
Nadir Shah (Nadir Qoli Beg), the King of Iran came into power seeing the anarchy in Iran and threw Hussain, the Persian ruler out of throne in 1736. Finding himself capable of capturing India after gaining Kandahar, he asked the Afghanies to surrender. The helpless and feeble Mohammad Shah, who was unable to handle Hindu Marathas, refused to yield which incensed Nader Shah. He occupied Lahore, Kabul, Peshawar, Sindh, and Ghazni justifying that the rebel Afghans took a shelter in India.The Battle of Karnal on February 13, 1739, proved to be the decisive war between Mughals and Nader Shah. Mughals were defeated and a rumor of Nader’s murder broke out in Delhi enraging Shah. He ordered a massacre in Delhi and 20,000 to 30,000 Indians were put to death by Nader Shah’s army. Mohammad Shah had to bow before Nader and the keys of the Mughal Empire drowned into the sea of blood. The Sun of Mughals set after centuries. The hard-earned Empire was handed over to Nader Shah by the incapable rulers of the last phase. Peacock Throne, artillery, elephants, treasury, and the booty went into the hands of Nader Shah.
Nader Shah was killed in 1747 and was followed by Ahmad Khan titled as Ahmad Shah Durrani or Ahmad Shah Abdali who invaded Punjab in 1748 but was hit back by the army of Prince Ahmad. Mohammad Shah died in 1748 and Ahmad Shah Durrani captured Punjab. The son of Jahandar Shah was made the King as Alamgir ll by Ghazi-ud-Din, one of the nobles of Delhi. Ahmad Shah Durrani sacked Delhi in 1756 killing thousands of soldiers and unarmed people. Marathas under Ragoba, the younger son of Bajji Rao conquered Punjab. Peshwa, generally known as Bhao Sahab, marched towards Delhi in 1760 and occupied Delhi on August 2 and looted the royal palace.
Third Battle of Panipat in 1761fought between Ahmad Shah Durrani and Marathas decided the fate of Marathas at the hands of Ahmad Shah Durrani who was supported by the Muslims. Prolonged delay in starting the war led Maratha army to starvation which proved to be their defeat. The Marathas’ sway came to an end. In 1767, Ahmad Shah came back to Panipat with a less remarkable expedition.
The journey between 1526 and 1767 leaves us in the world of victory over the rebels and expansion of the Mughal Empire on one hand and the worst dismay in the later years on the other. Chaos of temporary pleasures with music, women, eunuchs, and other luxuries took the Mughal Empire to the abysmal darkness where they could only imagine their grand and glorious past. They later Mughals fell an easy prey to the intrigues from within and the foreigners who took advantage of their weaknesses and internal conflicts. The Empire became a tale of the bygone lanes and political and social anarchy encouraged the foreigners to occupy India. The traders to India became the master of India in the long run. After Aurangzeb, the Mughal Empire functionally breathed its last though it continued till the War of Independence in 1857.