[Solved] Clarify how mid-eighteenth century India was beset with the spectre of a fragmented polity ( UPSC GS -1 Mains 2017)
During the first half of the eighteenth century, with Aurangzeb’s misguided policies which weakened the stable Mughal polity and failure of later Mughals like Muhammad Shah’s rule from 1719 to 1748 reshaped the boundaries of the Mughal Empire by the emergence of a number of independent kingdoms.
Major Political units of that time:
• Through the 18th century, the Mughal Empire gradually fragmented into a number of independent, regional states.
– Successor States Hyderabad, Bengal and Awadh were the three cases where provincial governors under the Mughals set up independent states.
– The second group of regional states were the ‘new states’ or ‘insurgent states’ set up by rebels against the Mughals-the Marathas, Sikhs, Jats and Afghans.
– The independent states like Mysore, the Rajput states and Kerala fall in this category.
• The Mughal empire’s influence was not as widespread or deep as was believed. Significant parts of India, especially in the North East and South, remained outside it, as did many social groups.
Despite fragmented polity there was survival of the Mughal tradition of government, as the prestige of the emperor was quite considerable despite the increasing influence of the rebel chiefs of the Marathas and Sikhs.
- The third battle of Panipat proved significant as British significantly gained with Maratha defeat and British got a tremendous opportunity to expand their influence in Bengal and India.
- Aurangzeb died in 1707 and almost instantly the Mughal empire started breaking up. This break up was followed by establishment of large number of independent and semi-independent or autonomous states of three types as follows: Warrior States: These were formed by the Sikhs, Jats and Marathas in course of their rebellion against the Mughals.
- Local Kingdoms: Such as Rajput states, Mysore, Travancore etc.
- Semi-independent or autonomous states: These were established by the Mughal nobles during the reign of Mohammad Shah (1720-1748). Such as Awadh founded by Saadat khan and Bengal founded by Murshid Quli Khan.
- After Aurangzeb’s death a war of succession broke out among his sons and Muazzam emerged as victorious. He assumed the royal authority under the title of bahadur shah I (1707-1717). He was the last Mughal emperor about whom anything considerable can be said.
- He followed a conciliatory and liberal policy towards Jats, Satnamis, Bundelas, Sikhs and Rajputs. When he died in 1712 a war of succession broke out among his four sons and Jahandar shah emerged victorious.
- He became the emperor with the help of an Iranian courtier named Zulfikar khan who was appointed as the wazir of the Mughal empire. Soon, he was murdered by his nephew Farrukhsiyar who became the emperor with the help of the Syed brothers from Meerut including the elder brother Abdullah khan and younger Hussain Ali. In 1719 Farrukhsiyar was murdered by the Syed brothers when he refused to be like a puppet ruler.
- In a quick succession Syed brothers raised Rafiuddarzat and Rafiddaula to the throne (1719) but soon they passed away. Now the king makers Syed brothers appointed Mohammad Shah as the king (1720-1748).
Therefore, it can be seen that the mid-eighteenth century was characterized by weak rulers and rise of autonomous regional states who pledged only namesake loyalty to the emperor. The frequent wars of succession, invasion by foreign and neighboring rulers like nadir shah who sacked Delhi and went off with Kohinoor Diamond, the peacock throne and three year worth of revenue resulted in destabilization of the country.
With the death of Aurangzeb in 1707 Mughal empire started declined and disintegrated in next fifty years. The rulers ruled during this period are Bahadur shah -I, Jahandar shah , Faruk siyar , Mohammad shah, here Mohammad shah completely neglected the kingdom, two of his ministers established Avadh and Hyderabad , Bengal states. During this time nadir shah invaded , he destroyed the then mughal wealth and military power , with this entire kingdom get weakened further.Marathas at that time were ferocious warriors but with the attack of ahmad sha abdali (independent ruler of Afghanistan, attacked India in retaliation to Maratha kings attack on afghan governor) ruined the glory of Marathas, this also weakened Maratha king dom. During that time Mughal ruler was shah alam, by this time alam territory confined to only Palam (present Delhi). During the time literally prime ministers ruled the kingdom , kings were became puppets in the hands of prime ministers.
War of succession among rulers also led to fragmentation of territory. In the south Carnatic wars also disturbed the kingdoms, battle plasy, buxar finally Shah alam granted diwani rights of Bengal, Bihar, Odisha states to British East India company, with this entire mughal empire confined to only red fort area of Delhi. Britishers started establishing their influence.
In the South too a triangular struggle for political supremacy
ensued between three Indian powers – The Marathas , the Nizams
and the Mysoreans. Another triangular contest between three
European Companies –the Dutch, the English and the Frenchcomplicated the political scenario. The six powers entered into intrigues and conspiracies , organised plots and counterplots and formed combinations and alliances which baffled all political analyst’s.
In 1719 Farrukhsiyar was murdered by the Syed brothers when he refused to be like a puppet ruler. In a quick succession Syed brothers raised Rafiuddarzat and Rafiddaula to the throne (1719) but soon they passed away. Now the king makers Syed brothers appointed Mohammad Shah as the king (1720-1748).
In Northern India a triangular struggle for an empire ensued between three contenders – The Mughals , the Afghans and the Marathas. The Afghans under Ahmed Shah Abdali , the Marathas under the Peshwas humbled the Mughal emperors and decimated the size of the Mughal empire
Therefore, it can be seen that the mid-eighteenth century was characterized by weak rulers and rise of autonomous regional states who pledged only namesake loyalty to the emperor. The frequent wars of succession, invasion by foreign and neighboring rulers like nadir shah who sacked Delhi and went off with Kohinoor Diamond, the peacock throne and three year worth of revenue resulted in destabilization of the country./eighteenth century/
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