The term "Mughal" has come to be regarded as a conve- niently acceptable designation for both a people and a dynasty, although a more appropriate term for the people would be "Chaghatāi Turks" and for the dynasty, "Tīmūrids." The ad- vent of the Mughals in India, like the rise of the Tudors in England, which it followed, marked a distinct break with the past in bringing about a succession of strong rulers who welded disparate political and ethnic elements and spatially fragmented polities into an administratively and fiscally united country. Territorially, however, the accomplishment of the Mughals was on a vastly greater scale. In both countries political stabil- ity and administrative efficiency brought economic prosperity, which led in turn to the development of fine arts and the pro- motion of learning. In India the period also carried forward the ideas of religious rapprochement that had been abroad under the preceding dynasty of the Lodīs.
The principal political developments of the Mughal Period are depicted on plates VI.A.1 and 3, which document the ex- pansion of the empire from its beginnings under Bābur in 1526 to its territorial zenith under Aurangzīb, late in the 17th cen- tury. Mughal imperialism during that period did not run an al- together smooth course. The dramatic resurgence of Afghan power under Sher Shāh Sūr in 1539 led to a total Mughal eclipse until the triumphal return of Humāyūn to India in 1555. Thereafter, Mughal arms advanced rapidly under Akbar (1556–1605), more slowly under Jahāngīr (1605–27) and Shāh Jahān (1628–57), and widely, though fitfully, under Aurangzīb (1657–1707). Although the sultanates of the Dec- can, resisting with varying degrees of success, could do no more than slow the Mughal advance, a more serious challenge to their hegemony arose from the Marathas, who, under Shivājī and his successors, were almost continually in rebellion after 1646. Not only did they disrupt Mughal administration over much of the Deccan and occasionally in Malwa and Gujarat as well, but they sapped the wealth of the empire by necessitating numerous costly and, in the end, fruitless punitive expeditions. The Marathas, however, were not alone in rebelling against Mughal rule; late in Aurangzīb's reign revolts erupted in many parts of the empire, accelerating the drain on imperial re- sources and setting the stage for the rapid decline that set in under the ineffectual monar&ctod;hs who followed.
Beyond India the power with whom the Mughals interacted most for a time was Persia. Its rulers, of the powerful Safavid dynasty, had given Humāyūn succor during his exile from India and provided military aid that helped him regain the im- perial throne; it is not surprising, therefore, that the Mughals sought to maintain their friendship. But a protracted dispute over possession of Kandahar, which both deemed vital to their strategic interests, seriously marred Mughal-Safavid relations. Added to this was the rise of Persian influence in the Deccan, where both Bijapur and Golkonda were resisting Mughal domi- nation. Besides, the rulers of Golkonda, on account of their ad- herence to the Shiite creed, had a close affinity with Iran and had for a time, before their defeat by the Mughals in 1639, even read the shah's name in the khutba (Friday sermon; the monarch mentioned therein was regarded as sovereign). Dur- ing the Mughal war of succession of 1656–59 relations with the Safavids became strained, and though Aurangzīb sought to re- store friendly ties with Iran, there were no diplomatic ex- changes between the two states between 1663 and the end of his reign.
From an Indian perspective contacts with European powers did not occupy a prominent place in the politics of the age, except for those involving certain petty states in the far south of the peninsula and Ceylon, where first the Portuguese and then the Dutch came to exercise a significant degree of hegem- ony, if not always direct rule. While several notes on plates VI.A.1 and 3 do relate to the Europeans, their role is more fully covered in subsection VI.B.
As already noted, among the most remarkable achievements of Mughal rule in India was their development of a stable, well-ordered governmental, administrative, and fiscal system with a clearly articulated territorial hierarchy of control. The territorial aspects of this system are mapped on plate VI.A.2, and the functional aspects are illustrated in an accompanying graph and table. The relevant text explains how the system worked and the debt it owed to reforms instituted under Sher Shāh Sūr during his brief rule in northern India.
The land taxes and other revenues derived by the Mughal state were, over much of the period under review, more than sufficient to maintain the large military and bureaucratic es- tablishment. Much of the surplus was expended on public works, particularly in the improvement of the road system. Lavish sums were also spent on construction, in centers such as Fathpur Sīkrī (plate VI.A.1, map (d)) and Shāhjahānābād (Delhi), or on individual mosques, palaces, tombs, gardens, and so forth. Under Shāh Jahān the empire reached its archi- tectural zenith. Plate VI.A.4 indicates the locations of some of the more important architectural and artistic monuments of
The religious history of the Mughal Period is of particular interest. Maps (b) and (c) of plate VI.A.4 indicate the re- gions and leading figures associated with various schools and sects of the popular Muslim Sufi orders and largely comparable Hindu Bhakti movements, which were then very influential. The contribution of the Bhakti movements to the growth of regional literature and of regionalist sentiment was pro- nounced, particularly in Bengal and among the Marathas and Sikhs, for whom that sentiment took on marked political over- tones in their opposition to Mughal rule. But important as Sufism and the Bhakti movement were, they fail to suggest some of the more important socioreligious developments of the age that occured as a result of various imperial policies and the reactions, favorable or otherwise, to which they gave rise. In this regard the contrasting personalities of Emperors Akbar and Aurangzīb are especially noteworthy.
Akbar was a man of wide-ranging religious interests. He was much influenced by Sufism, especially the Chishtī order, and built his capital, Fathpur Sīkrī, at the site where the great con- temporary saint Shaikh Salīm Chishtī lived. Within his new capital he constructed the 'Ibādat Khāna (House of Worship), to which he invited exponents of various schools of Muslim thought, Hinduism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism, and, finally, even Christianity (in the person of Jesuit priests) to discourse with them about their faiths. He espoused toleration for all religions and sought to eliminate any invidious distinctions among his subjects that were rooted in religion. His most important act toward that goal was the abolition in 1564 of jizya, a tax levied on non-Muslims (see introductory text to section V for ex- planation). In many of his personal acts and edicts Akbar was regarded by orthodox Muslims as going beyond the pale of Islam and betraying its interests. He was even said to have at- tempted in 1582 to establish within his court a new eclectic religion (referred to in later times as the Dīn-i Ilāhī), though some scholars assert that he intended nothing more than to establish a religious order within Islam. Whatever the facts may be, the number of his disciples was negligible. More to the point, his syncretic predilections in religious and other matters gave rise to a fierce Naqshbandī (orthodox Sufi, see text for plate (VI.A.4) reaction that strongly influenced the politics of the succeeding years of Mughal rule and reverberated through the British period as well.
It is not known to what degree Aurangzīb was influenced by contacts with Naqshbandī saints and by exposure to their writ- ings; but it is certain that his program largely echoed the senti- ments they espoused in their reaction against Akbar's religious innovations. Aurangzīb was a devout Muslim, zealous and puri- tanical in his religious views and in his personal conduct. He withdrew imperial patronage of those arts he deemed not con- sonant with Islam (e.g., pictorial art, which resulted in images of living creatures, and music generally), though their popu- larity persisted outside the court. In 1679, in conformity with Islamic law, he reimposed the jizya (tax) on Hindus by which act he is said to have lost favor with non-Muslims. For this and other actions for which proper religious motives may be ad- duced, he has been judged by some scholars to have been in- tolerant of religions other than Islam, whereas other scholars view him admiringly as one who truly lived and upheld his faith, at the same time supporting coexistence with votaries of other faiths.
VI.A.1 Northern South Asia in the Period of Bābur, Humāyūn, and Sher Shāh, 1526–55; Northern South Asia during the Reign of Akbar, 1556–1605
The beginnings of Mughal rule in India witnessed stunning military successes and no less stunning reverses of fortune. Scarcely thirteen years after Bābur's successful sweep across northern India in 1526, the Mughals, under Bābur's son Humāyūn, were in hasty retreat before the Afghan armies of Sher Khān Sūr. After a long period of exile, Humāyūn was able to retake Delhi in 1555; but his death the following year precluded his enjoying the fruits of his victory. Maps (a) and (b) carry the story of Mughal rule to this point. Maps (c) and (e) treat political events of the reign of Humāyūn's son and suc- cessor, Akbar, under whom Mughal power in India was firmly consolidated. For events in southern India other than those relating to the Mughals up to 1605, see plate V.4 and relevant text.
After defeating the last Lodī sultan at Panipat in 1526, Bābur took possession of Delhi and Agra. Other places like Sambhal, Gwaliyār (Gwalior), Kālpī, Itāwā, Qannauj, Jaunpur, and Ghāzīpur were easily occupied; but a major contest took place in 1527 at Khānua with the Rajput Confederacy, led by the Sisodiyā ruler Rānā Sānga, whose defeat confirmed the estab- lishment of Mughal rule in the country. This was immediately followed by the capture from the Rajputs of Chanderī on the northern frontier of Malwa, while the powerful fort of Ranthambhor was ceded by Rānā Sānga's son Bikramājit.
Unfortunately, Bābur could not match his achievements on the battlefield by creating a strong administrative organization, and this mainly accounted for the misfortunes of his son Humāyūn, who succeeded him. He had, however, laid the foundations of a happy relationship with the Safavids of Per- sia that was to prove a boon to Humāyūn during his exile from India (see below). Even before his Indian conquest, Bābur had allied himself with the first Safavid emperor, Shāh Isma'īl, against the Uzbegs after the shah's victory over them at Marv in 1510. He went so far as to profess the Shīah creed to strengthen his friendship with the shah in order to ensure Persian assistance against the Uzbegs. Mughal-Safavid relations improved further after Shāh Tahmāsp's accession to the Per- sian throne in 1524, and ambassadors were exchanged by the two powers in 1526.
By 1530, Bābur had overcome Afghan resistance in Bihar; but the Afghans regrouped their forces and set up the Lodī pretender, Mahmūd, brother of Ibrāhīm Lodī, as an inde- pendent king at Patna. They were, however, defeated at Dadra, near Lucknow, in 1531. Sher Khān Sūr, whose last-minute withdrawal from the field of Dadra had contributed to the Mughal victory as well as to the elimination of his own rivals, emerged as the new Afghan leader. He soon consolidated his position in Bihar and conquered most of Bengal after inflicting several defeats on the Bengali army between 1534 and 1538. This compelled Humāyūn to march toward Bengal; but Sher Khān Sūr adopted a successful strategy of letting the Mughal emperor reach Gaur, then cutting off his line of retreat, there- after capturing the country from Teliyāgarhī to Qannauj. On turning back from Gaur, Humāyūn was defeated by the Afghans at Chausa near Baksar in 1539 and fled to Agra, while Sher Khān declared himself an independent king (Sher Shāh) the same year. In the following year Sultan Sher Shāh inflicted another defeat on the Mughal army at Bilgrām, near Qannauj, which resulted in Humāyūn's exit from India and Sher Shāh's capture of Delhi, Agra, and the Punjab.
After this defeat, Humāyūn first went to Lahore, then turned toward Sind; but he failed to get a foothold either there or in Rajputana. During these wanderings, however, he married Hamīda Bāno Begam in 1541; and in the following year his illustrious son Akbar was born at Umarkot. Finding the polit- ical atmosphere of Sind insecure on account of the hostility of the Arghūns, whom Bābur had more than once defeated, he finally decided in 1543 to leave India and go to Persia to seek temporary asylum and military assistance. As noted above, Bābur had already cultivated friendly relations with the Safavids Shāh Isma'īl and Shāh Tahmāsp, and it was against this background that Humāyūn entered Sīstān early in 1544 and proceeded via Herat and Mashhad to Qazwin, from whence he was conducted to the royal camp of Shāh Tahmāsp. During his sojourn of about a year in Persia, Humāyūn had several meetings with the shah, who converted his guest to Shiism and eventually sent him away with 12,000 troops with which to re- conquer Kandahar and hand it over to the shah's men. Humāyūn did recover Kandahar, and for a time it was in con- trol of the Persian troops; but when most of them returned home, Humāyūn took it over in the interest of his own safety and that of his men. Soon he was able to recapture Kabul and Ghazni as well. His relations with Tahmāsp, however, remained cordial, and between 1546 and 1553 the two kings exchanged a number of embassies. All this time Humāyūn watched for an opportunity to reenter India and recover his patrimony.
Rid of Humāyūn, Sher Shāh revived the Delhi Sultanate in 1540 and founded the Sūr dynasty. By the time of his death in 1545, he had extended his territories by conquering and an- nexing Malwa, much of Rajputana, and Multan, while Bikaner became his tributary. Sher Shāh might have embarked on a course of further conquests had not his career been cut short by a fatal explosion during the siege of Kalinjar. Yet his achievements during his five-year period of full sovereignty were considerable. He completed the reconquest of most of northern India for the Afghans, and the extent of his terri- tories exceeded that of his two Mughal predecessors as well as that of the Lodī Afghans. Further, he proved to be the pre- cursor of Akbar in two respects: first, by subduing the inde- pendent states of northern India and by reasserting central authority over the entire area, he paved the way for the still stronger superstructure the great Mughal was able to build; second, he provided a new structure of administrative ma- chinery (see text for plate VI.A.2), which the first two Mughal sovereigns had failed to do, but which was essential for the consolidation of their political gains. Of Sher Shāh's adminis-