Zahiruddin Babur found the Mughal Empire in 1526 AD. It expands to its full glory under Akbar in the second half of the 16th Century. However, the causes of the Decline of the Mughal Empire started from the period of 1707 AD onwards when Aurangzeb took over as the Mughal Emperor.
The Causes of the Decline of the Mughal Empire are:
Most historians have blamed Aurangzeb solely responsible for the decline of the Mughal Empire. His religious policies were particularly the reason for the decline of the Mughal Empire. The Hindus were exploited who constituted the majority of the population.
AURANGZEB’S RELIGIOUS IN INDIA EXAMPLES:
He reimposed the Jizyah tax, his regular attacks on Hindu Temples; he widened the gulf between the Hindus and the Muslims in his empire. This act of Aurangzeb affected the smooth functioning of his political machinery. In addition, most of his officials who are responsible to look after the different departments of the state were the Hindus. Besides, the Hindus have a deep impact on the Mughal Empire.
AURANGZEB’S MILITARY CAMPAIGNS
Aurangzeb’s military campaigns against Bijapur and Golconda and against the Marathas were also another reason that contributes to the decline of the Mughal empire. For Example, his prolonged state in the Deccan led to the impoverishment of the state treasury due to the huge amount of expenses incurred in his military campaigns.
AURANGZEB’S LONG ABSENCE FROM NORTHERN INDIA
Aurangzeb’s long absence from Northern India led to many provincial governors declaring themselves independent from the control of the Mughals. As a result, it obstructs the smooth function of the state government.
Weak Successors were other causes of the Decline of the Mughal Empire. Unfortunately, all the Mughal Emperors who succeeded in the throne after Aurangzeb were weak and incapable. They were incapable to meet challenges.
Bahadur Shah, I (1707-1712) lacked the quality and personality of a leader to maintain the empire’s former glory. He wants to appease all sections of the society by simply granting unnecessary titles and rewards at the expense of the state treasury.
INCAPABLE OF MUGHAL RULERS
Jahandar Shah (1712-1713) was equally an incapable ruler as Bahadur Shah. While Farrukhsiyar (1713-1719) did not have the stature to rule such a massive empire. Muhammad Shah’s reign (1719-1748) though it was pretty long, however, he did not contribute to the development of the empire. Besides, the emperor himself was an addict to the pleasure of the Harem (a place where the female members of a royal family live) and other enjoyments of life. These addictions divert his attention from the state’s policies.
The next successors inline, i.e. Alamgir II and Shah Alam II also did not contribute to the development of the empire. Besides, they were under the control of the Marathas and the British.
Thus, the absence of strong successors after Aurangzeb was indeed a very important factor that contributes towards the causes of the Decline of the Mughal Empire
Shah Alam II was the last Mughal emperor and the British took over. Diwani’s rights (Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa) which Shah Alam II gave to the British triggers the end of the Mughal Empire and the British became real rulers and India was annexed to the British Empire.
WEAKNESS AND SELFISHNESS OF THE NOBLES
Apart from the role played by the Mughal Emperors, the action and personalities of the nobles also contributed towards the causes of the Decline of the Mughal Empire. Their characters have destroyed the empire to a large extent. Subsequently, most of them became corrupt and led a lavish lifestyle at the expense of the state treasury. The existing families of the nobles began to fill the important posts in the government. As a result, it stops more capable individuals to fill such posts.
A large number of energetic and capable officials, along with brave military commanders came into prominence during the 18th Century. However, most of the nobles use their positions to promote their own selfish interests. Besides, if their interest is not met, conflict takes place they fought amongst themselves.
Other Causes of the Decline of the Mughal Empire is the Jagirdari system. It is a land assessment or a system of land grants. One of the major causes of the growing selfishness and disunity among the nobles was the scarcity of Jagirs and the reduced income that the nobles received from the jagirs as a result of their scarcity. The main reason was that the number of nobles and their expenditure was rising up and there was no enough land for these nobles.
As a result, more than one noble was assigned a jagir. The scarcity of Jagirs had some serious consequences.
Firstly, the nobles tried to increase their income from the Jagirs by forcing the peasants to pay more taxes than they actually should.
Secondly, they tried to transform their existing Jagirs into a hereditary one.
Thirdly, in order to balance their own budgets, they began to cultivate and extract revenue from the Khalisa land (Crown land or state land). As a result, it contributes to the financial crisis of the central government.
Lastly, in order to meet their expenses, they fail to maintain their full quota of troops as requires, which then weakens the strength of the army.
NADER SHAH’S INVASION
In Persia, the Safavids were displaced by the Afghans. The Russians as well show considered interest in Persia, but it was the brave soldier, Nadir Shah Qali, who took up the cost of the Safavids and drove out the Afghans and the Russians from Persia. He then took the throne of Persia as Nader Shah in 1736 AD. During his reign, he appeals to the Mughal Emperor, Muhammad Shah for assistance in recovering back Qandahar from the Afghans. However, Muhammad Shah’s refusal to help Nader Shah led to an invasion of the Mughal territories by Nader Shah.
Consequently, he threatened Muhammad Shah with an attack on Delhi and both armies met at Karnal. In this battle, the Mughal army lost the battle. However, Muhammad Shah remains in the throne of Delhi. However, Nader Shah annex all the territories like west of the river Indus including Kabul. Besides, he also demanded a sum of 20 Lakhs as a war indemnity. It was to be paid directly to Nadir Shah.
Hence, the short invasion of the Mughal territories by Nadir Shah not only shattered the prestige of the Mughal but it also completely drained the Mughals in terms of finance as well.
RISE OF REGIONAL POWERS
After the death of Muhammad Shah in 1748 AD, the imperial power weakened further with the establishment of several hereditary kingdoms in the provinces of the Mughal India. With the growing weakness of the center, these kingdoms began to proclaim their independence from the Mughal rule. Except for Punjab independent kingdom also known as a regional power was formed by the middle of the 18th Century.
Examples of such independent kingdoms are:
Mir Qamaruddin Khan found the state of Hyderabad in 1724 AD, it was the most important new principality that emerged during the middle of the 18th Century.
In Bengal, power passed into the hands of Murshid Qalikhan and Alivardi Khan.
In Awadh, Saadat Khan founded the independent kingdom of Awadh in 1722 AD.
Besides, in South India, next to Hyderabad, the most important power that emerged was Mysore under the leadership of Hyder Ali.
RISE OF THE BRITISH POWER
After the death of Alivardi Khan in 1756, Siraj-Ud-Daulah became the new nawab of Bengal. As soon as he took over the new Nawab he was confronted with a number of problems. One such problem was the action of the British in Bengal, whereby they sold the Dastaks (trading License) at a very cheaper rate to the Indian Merchants, as compared to that sold by the state. This resulted in the decline of the regular generation of revenue from the selling of Dastaks. Hence, the Nawab make the Bengal a land of free trade and this decision anger the British.
The above action of the Nawab contributed to the outbreak of the Battle of Plassey in 1757. In this battle, the British defeats Siraj-Ud-Daulah.
Thereafter, the British entered into another battle, with the then of Nawab of Bengal, Mir Qasim. This battle is famously known as the Battle of Buxar. This battle starts from 1764 to 1765. The battle ends in favor of the British. As a result, Shah Alam II granted the Diwani rights of Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa to the British. Hence, the British became the actual rulers of India after this battle.
Therefore, the victory of the British in the Battle of Plassey and Battle of Buxar ended the long reign of the Mughals. Subsequently, it inaugurated a new period in Indian history which was to witness the long reign of the British until its independence of 1947.