31 January 2015

Eighteenth-Century Political Formations

NCERT / CBSE NOTES : Chapter Summary

Eighteenth-Century Political Formations

Decline of the Mughals

In the 18th century, many political reasons led to the decline of the Mughal Empire. Aurangzeb’s campaigns in the Deccan region decreased his military and financial power. His administrative system also started collapsing, as the governors started consolidating power in their own provinces.
Aurangzeb’s successors were unable to keep a check on the mansabdars and the subhedars.

To recover revenues, the governors started increasing the taxes and kept these with themselves. This led to uncontrollable revolts by the peasants and zamindars.

During this time, the empire also faced an attack from Nadir Shah of Iran, in 1739, and Ahmad Shah Abdali of Afghanistan five times - between 1748 and 1761 weakening the empire further.

The nobles divided into those supporting the Iranian and the Turanis nobles.Their power struggle led to the assassination of two Mughal emperors, Farrukh Siyar in 1719 and Alamgir II in 1759, blinding Emperors Ahmad Shah and Shah Alam II as well.

The decline of the Mughal authority led to three types of states in the subcontinent – old Mughal states, independent states under the Mughals, and states which became independent of the Mughal rule.

Emergence of New States

With the decline in the Mughal authority, many new states emerged in the Indian subcontinent like Awadh, Bengal and Hyderabad which were founded by the respective governors under the Mughal Empire. Hyderabad was established by Asaf Jah, Awadh by Sa’adat Khan and Bengal by Murshid Quli Khan.

There are three main reasons for these states gaining power and becoming prominent were; the modified administrative system, modified tax collection procedure and better relations with the bankers and money lenders of the state.

There were many Rajput kings who started serving as watan jagirs. The Rajput kings who had been running an independent state within the Mughal Empire tried to extend their territories, but were thwarted by the kings of the neighboring regions. Some Rajput kings were made subhedars of wealthy provinces of Gujarat and Malwa.

In 1713, emperor Jahandar Shah renewed these positions while some Rajput kings also seized other royal territories surrounding their watans. Sawai Raja Jai Singh founded Jaipur and was later made the subhedar of Agra. However, in 1740s, the Marathas prevented the Rajputs kings from expanding their territories. The Sikhs, Marathas and Jats, after a long struggle, did seize independence from the Mughals.

Guru Gobind Singh, the founder of Khalsa, fought several battles against the Rajput and Mughal rulers. They declared their independence under the leadership of Banda Bahadur in 1765. Maharaja Ranjit Singh reunited the various territories and made Lahore its capital in 1799.

The Jats had established their region in the areas surrounding Delhi and Agra under the leadership of Churaman. It also raised an army to protect itself from the Mughal Empire. In 1739, when Nadir Shah of Iran attacked Delhi, its ruler Suraj Mal gave refuge to the Mughal nobles. Under Suraj Mal, the kingdom of Bharatpur emerged as a strong state.

The Maratha kingdom was another important state in the Indian subcontinent under the army of Shivaji. The Peshwa later held the administrative power of the Maratha Kingdom and made Poona its capital. Soon, they expanded their territory and began ruling over the entire Deccan peninsula. It was him who implemented policies like the chauth and sardeshmukhi in this region.

During the third battle of Panipat in 1761, several Maratha rulers did not support the Marathas fighting the battle.