Mughals, also known by different names such as Moguls or Persian Mughuls (Mongol), came to India in the early 16th century and ruled Northern India till the medieval 18th century. This Turkic-Mongol origin dynasty effectively ruled Hindustan for almost two centuries. Among their various achievements, the most distinct is that they brought the Indian subcontinent under one territory by integrating Hindus and Muslims into a combined state. Each Mughal ruler, whether it be Babur, Akbar, or Shah Jahan, left their imprint on the country in a unique manner especially in the field of culture. So, let's take a brief look at the entire journey of the Mughal emperors and their reign in India.
The Mughal dynasty in India was founded by Babur, a descendant of Emperor Timur. Babur, who was of Turkish origin, started making his mark in India by conquering Punjab. Consequently, he eliminated Delhi sultan Ibrahim Lodi in the Battle of Panipat in 1526, which later led him to establish control over Northern India. However, his hunger for conquest remained alit. So, he entered into and won numerous battles, the most important one being the Battle of Khanwa with the mighty Rajput king Rana Sanga of Mewar. While most of his tale is associated with wars, it is a lesser-known fact that Babur was also a socialite, a passionate gardener, and a creative writer.
Mughal Emperor Babur
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Soon after Babur’s death, Humayun, his son, became the new emperor. However, he was not as successful as his father. He soon lost control of his Empire to Afghans. He was dethroned by the Suri Empire and exiled to Persia for over a decade. But eventually, Humayun, with the help of the Persian king Shah Tahmasp, managed to regain his lost throne. But this help didn't come for free. Humayun had to convert from Sunni to Shia Islam to save his life and those of his followers. Sadly, he could not enjoy his reign for long. Humayun died a year later after falling from the stairs of his library.
Emperor Humayun with Persian King Shah Tahmasp
Humayun's accidental death led to the coronation of a 13-year-old Akbar. At the very beginning of his reign, Akbar conquered Hemu at the Second Battle of Panipat. In fact, in comparison to Ashoka’s Empire, Akbar’s empire was a larger one. Despite being illiterate and uneducated, Akbar became one of the greatest emperors in the world. It was during his time that the Mughal Empire became stable and the most prosperous. Akbar is most known for his religious tolerance, matrimonial alliances, efficient policies, his choice of courtiers, military campaigns and his quest for knowledge.
Akbar, The Great
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Akbar was succeeded by Jahangir, popularly known as prince Salim. Jahangir is not really famous for his administrative skills but his contribution to the development of the Mughal School of Art is immense. In his reign, Indian miniature art became highly refined, motifs of flora and fauna were extensively made and a high level of definition was acquired in portraits. His favourite wife, Nur Jahan had utmost power in terms of administration while Jahangir remained obsessed with alcohol, opium and the arts. In popular culture, Prince Salim is mostly associated with a tragic love story with an enchanting courtesan, Anarkali. However, whether this tale is true or not is doubtful.
Mughal Emperor Jahangir
Prince Khurram or Shah Jahan is most known for his intense love story with his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal and the monument of their romance- The Taj Mahal. Although Shah Jahan was a fierce warrior and an efficient administrator, after the death of Mumtaz Mahal, he became a weak lovelorn king who devoted his entire life to the construction of the Taj Mahal, one of the most beautiful architectural wonders in the world. Apart from Taj Mahal, Shah Jahan is also credited for other monuments like Jama Masjid, Red Fort, Wazir Khan Mosque, Shalimar Gardens and so on. Gripped in family turmoil and the loss of his loved ones, he breathed his last under house arrest commissioned by his son, Aurangzeb.
Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan
Aurangzeb was the last great Mughal Emperor who ruled for 50 years. However, he came into the limelight for all the wrong reasons. He acquired the throne by imprisoning his father and killing his brothers. As a very strong political and religious leader, he barred almost all kinds of visual and performing arts in his court. Although the Mughal empire touched the peak of its military power, it later became unstable because of the high number of rebellions against Aurangzeb and his policies.
Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb
From then onwards, the great Mughal empire started declining. The imprisonment and exile of Bahadur Shah Zafar, a great poet but a weak emperor, by the British marks the official end of the powerful dynasty. Even after the end of the Mughal empire, their influence can still be seen in various art forms and architectural styles of India. It portrayed the merger of the various styles of Islam with the Indian culture. Specifically, these styles can be found in India and its neighboring countries like Afghanistan, Nepal, and Bangladesh.
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Pratha Content Writing Intern