The Mughal Empire

(1526-1857)

Coming to Power

The Mughal Empire ruled from 1536 to 1837, stretching from parts of Afghanistan to the Indian subcontinent. The empire was founded by Babur a Turkic prince who was a descendant of Timur (Tamerlane), and the great- grandson of Genghis Khan. Babur defeated Ibrahim Lodi the Delhi Sultan at the Battle of Panipat, defeating the Afghans and conquering their lands. He ruled from 1526-1530, controlling all of northern India.

Akbar The Great

Akbar the Great ruled from 1556-1605, and expanded the territory to north, central, and western India. Akbar was a very firm believer in religious tolerance, and did not force non-Muslims to follow the Sharia (Islamic) law, and allowed them to freely practice their beliefs, customs, and traditions. Akbar ended discriminatory tax that had been previously paid by civilians as a religious obligation to the government. He also created a delegated form of government that set governors for every territory who would fall under his command. He also filled his court with many people of different religions and cultures, especially Hindus, allowing decisions to be made that would be accepted by everyone. Akbar was so set on religious toleration he attempted to create a new religion Din-i-ilahi or “Godism”, which was a combination of Islamic, Hindu, Christian, and Buddhist teachings, and claimed himself to be a deity.

Mughal Architecture

Jahangir, Akbar's son, succeeded the throne and ruled between 1605 and 1627, he continued diversifying his court, readopted Islam as the state religion, and also resumed religious tolerance. He flourished architecture during his rule, monuments he had constructed by Persian architects are still significant today. Jahan the son of Jahangir became emperor in 1627, at this point the empire was so large and wealthy it was considered one of the greatest empires of its time. The construction of the Taj Mahal, a gift to his wife Mumtaz, marked a pinnacle of Mughal architectural achievement.

Military

Aurangzeb, the last great emperor of the Mughal empire ruled from 1658-1707, and was the son of Shah Jahan. It was under his rule that the empire reached its greatest size, he restored military dominance and expanded power towards the South. He imposed Islamic law and did not support religious tolerance, making enemies with the Hindus. He destroyed many temples and places of worship, and built many Mosques in the south. Aurangzeb defeated the British between 1688 and 1691, but their victory over the French at the Battle of Plassey in 1757 soon led to their controlling Bengal. Aurangzeb became engaged in many wars, against the Pathans in Afghanistan, the Sultans of Bijapur and Golkonda in Deccan, the Marathas in Maharashtra, and the Ahoms in Assam. This created a division of religion, breaking the empire and territories apart. In order to make peace with the Maratha, Persian, and Afghan armies that invaded Delhi, they gave away much of their treasures.

Influence of Mughals in India



  • Centralised government that brought together many smaller kingdoms

  • Delegated government with respect for human rights

  • Persian art and culture

  • Persian language mixed with Arabic and Hindi to create Urdu

  • Periods of great religious tolerance

  • A style of architecture (e.g. the Taj Mahal)

  • A system of education that took account of pupils' needs and culture

How the Mughals Conquered Land

The emperor would often send a message to the neighbouring states and kingdoms to submit to the Mughal rule, if they denied then the Mughals would engage in war. Their large armies, infantry, cavalry, proved effective, allowing them to win many battles.

Coming to an End

After 14 more emperors the Mughal empire came to an end in the mid-19th century. The British gained control by making deals with other principal kingdoms through treaties and alliances. The British East India Company led a revolt and attack on the capital in Delhi, many Hindus and Muslims rebelled against the British, causing an outbreak of revolts. The British later found Bahadur Shah II, the last Mughal emperor, guilty of treason, and banished him to Burma, and Queen Victoria was declared the Empress of India.