Vincent Arthur Smith.

The Oxford student's history of India online

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to his father, was no fool, and was able to preserve intact
without much exertion the empire which he had inherited.
Early in his reign he visited Kabul, and some years later sup-
pressed a rebellion in that province. The central Subas gave
him little trouble, but from time to time armies had to be sent
into Rajputana, Bengal, and the Deccan, as well as to Kabul
and Kangra.

Jahangir' s ambitions ; Kandahar. Jahangir inherited from
his father and personally cherished two great objects of
ambition one, to recover the ancestral dominions of his house
beyond the Oxus, the other to bring all Southern India under
his sway. He did not succeed in effecting either purpose.
His armies never got near the Oxus. Their most distant
achievement was the recovery of Kandahar from the Persians
early in the reign. Later, towards the close of 1621, the
Persians retook the city.

The Deccan. In the Deccan, Ahmadnagar, taken by Akbar's
forces in 1600 (ante, p. 177), had been recovered for the local
dynasty by an Abyssinian minister named Malik Ambar, who
forced the imperial troops to retire to Burhanpur, and harassed
them by attacks of light cavalry, worked in that Maratha
fashion which, at a later date, proved too much for all tho

resources of Aurangzeb. Jahangir was never able to make
much progress in the conquest of the Deccan, although the city
of Ahmadnagar was regained for a time.

Bengal. A rebellion in Bengal, headed by Usman Khan,
an Afghan chief, which had begun in the preceding reign, was
ended in 1612 by the killing of the rebel leader.

Me war. Amar Singh, the proud Rana of Mewar (Udaipur),
and head of the Rajput clans, whose ancestors had defied
Babur and Akbar, was reduced to submission in the ninth
year of the reign (1614) by Prince Khurram (Shahjahan).
The Rajput prince was pursued so unceasingly that he could
hold out no longer. He and his son Karan, who were received
with marked honour and courtesy by the prince, acknowledged
the Padshah as their superior lord. Jahangir caused life-sized
marble statues of the Rana and his son to be carved and
set up in the garden under the audience -window at Agra.
Unfortunately, those interesting works of art haTe disappeared.

Conquest of Kangra. Another important military success
was gained later in the reign (1620) by the reduction of the
famous fortress of Kangra in the Panjab, which Akbar had
failed to subdue. Jahangir was extremely proud of this
victory. Afterwards, he visited the stronghold and des-
troyed its sanctity in Hindu eyes by slaughtering a bullock
and erecting a mosque within the precincts.

Plague. In the tenth year of the reign a deadly outbreak
of plague occurred in the Panjab. The disease, which Jahangir
believed to have been previously unknown in India, spread to
Delhi, Kashmir, and most parts of Hindustan. Rats were
affected, just as they have been by the plague which began
in 1896.

The Empress Nurjahan. Perhaps the marriage of Jahangir,
in May 1611, with the Persian lady named Mmr-un-nisa
may be regarded as the most important event of his reign,
because she became the real sovereign, the power behind the
throne. That lady, on whom Jahangir conferred at first the
title of Nurmahall (' Light of the Palace '), and later that of

1776 Q


Nurjahan (' Light of the World '), by which she is usually
known, had attracted his admiration during his father's life-
time. Akbar discouraged the prince's suit, and married Mihr-
un-nisa to an officer named Ali Kuli, better known by his title
of Sher Af gan Khan ( ' the tiger-thrower ' ) . After the accession
of Prince Salim to the throne Sher Afgan was appointed
Governor of Bardwan in Bengal. He incurred the displeasure
of Jahangir, who sent his own foster-brother Kutb-ud-din Khan
with orders to dispatch Sher Afgan to court, and if he should
resist to punish him. When Kutb-ud-din attempted to enforce
his orders Sher Afgan killed him and was himself slain by the
followers of the imperial official, who, to quote Jahangir's
words, fell upon Sher Afgan, ' cut him in pieces, and sent him
to hell '. The emperor adds the comment that ' it is to be
hoped that the place of that black-faced scoundrel will ever be
there '. Although there is no positive evidence that Jahangir
ordered the destruction of Sher Afgan in order that he might
gain possession of the widow, the ferocity of the remark quoted
permits of little doubt on the subject. Mihr-un-nisa was
brought to court, but allowed fully four years to pass before she
consented to accept the position of principal consort to Jahangir.
Once she was installed as empress, her husband submitted to
her guidance without reserve, and granted her privileges
beyond all precedent. She sat at the audience-window to hear
petitions, and her name appeared on the coinage along with
that of Jahangir. In fact, she governed the empire. The
Muhammadan chroniclers affirm that Jahangir used to say that
' Nurjahan was wise enough to conduct the business of State,
while he wanted only a bottle of wine and a piece of meat
wherewith to make merry'. Nurjahan certainly exercised
a good influence on her husband, whose intemperance and
cruelty she checked to some extent. She is said to have been
' an asylum to all sufferers ' and a generous patron of many
needy suppliants, especially of dowerless girls. Her power
came to an end after the accession of Shahjahan, but she was
well treated and allowed a liberal income. She lived until


1645, when she died at Lahore, where she was buried by the
side of Jahanglr. Her father, Itimad-ud-daula, her able
brother, Asaf Khan, and numerous other relatives had shared
her wealth and power while they lasted.

Intrigues ; rebellion of Prince Khurram. The empress
sought to secure her position at court by marrying to Prince
Khurram, third son of the emperor, her brother's daughter,
the famous Mumtaz Mahall, ' the Lady of the Taj ', and by
uniting her own daughter by her first husband to Shahryar,
the youngest son of Jahanglr. At first she favoured Prince
Khurram, but when the Deccan wars enhanced his reputation,
she grew jealous and transferred her support to Prince Shahr-
yar. Her intrigues on his behalf drove the elder brother
into rebellion. He was defeated by Mahabat Khan, his father's
general, and compelled to flee, first to Masulipatam on the east
coast, and thence to Bengal. In 1625 he was partially recon-
ciled with his father, who conferred on him the title of Shah-
jahan, ' King of the World '.

Rebellion of Mahabat Khan. In course of time, Mahabat
Khan in his turn became the object of the jealousy of the
empress, and was forced to rebel in self-defence. In the year
1626, when Jahanglr was on his way to Kabul, the insurgent
general cleverly secured the trump card in the game of
intrigue by seizing the emperor's person, and in the next year
Nurjahan, with equal cleverness, enabled him to regain his

Sir Thomas Roe. Sir Thomas Roe, the dignified ambassador
of James I of England (ante, p. 164), was admitted to close in-
timacy with the drunken monarch to whom he was accredited,
and had to do his best to take his share in the frequent mid-
night orgies. He has left on record a lively description of
Jahanglr and his court. Another Englishman, William
Hawkins, who had visited Agra a few years earlier, and joined
more willingly in the royal potations, was much disgusted
by the bloodthirsty cruelty of the emperor.

Death of Jahanglr, 1627. Jahanglr habitually spent the


hot season in Kashmir, which he called ' a garden of eternal
spring, a delightful flower-bed, and a heart -expanding heritage
for dervishes '. In October 1627, when returning thence,
he was taken ill and died suddenly after a reign of twenty -two
years. His remains lie in a fine mausoleum at Lahore, which
city was usually treated as his capital .

Character of Jahangir. Jahangir has been described as
' a talented drunkard ' . In his youth he had been spoiled, and
he grew up to be a wilful, cruel man, easy-going and good-
natured when not thwarted, but a ferocious savage when
angered. Like Muhammad bin Tughlak, he was ' a mixture
of opposites '. We know all about him, because we have his
own account of nineteen years of his reign recorded in his
authentic Memoirs, in addition to many narratives by Indian
and European writers, not to speak of numerous life-like
portraits, the work of skilled artists. We can thus see the
man as he was the typical Asiatic despot, a strange compound
of tenderness and cruelty, justice and caprice, refinement and
brutality, good sense and childishness. Jahangir prided
himself especially on his love of justice. When recording the
execution of a notable personage for the crime of murder, he
observes : ' God forbid that in such affairs I should consider
princes, and far less that I should consider Amirs.' But his
justice was bloody and cruel, rarely tempered with mercy.
For instance, he had no hesitation in sentencing hundreds of
men at a time to be impaled on sharp stakes. He could feel
the most acute grief for the loss of a wife or child, and yet ham-
string and kill certain wretched beaters who had accidentally
spoiled his shot at an antelope. He loved both nature and art.
He was an expert judge of painting and delighted in fine
scenery or lovely flowers. The blossom of the dhak tree, he
remarks, ' is so beautiful that one cannot take one's eyes off it '.
The Rev. Edward Terry, Sir Thomas Roe's chaplain, while
admitting that the emperor did not always abide by his
promises,- records the fact that Englishmen ' found a free trade,
a peaceable residence, and a very good esteem with that king


and people '. The life and reign of Jahangir deserve treat-
ment better than they have yet received from historians.

Shahryar and Da war Baksh ; accession of Shahjahan. When
Jahangir died two of his sons still lived. Prince Khurram or
Shahjahan, the elder of the two and the ablest member of the
family, was then far away in the Deccan. Shahryar, the younger,
was at Lahore. 1 Asaf Khan, whose daughter, Mumtaz Mahall,
was married to Shahjahan, naturally desired his son-in-law to
succeed. In order to gain time until he should arrive, Asaf
Khan set up as Padshah, Khusr u's son,Dawar Baksh, nicknamed
Bulaki, who, according to some authorities, had been nominated
as heir-apparent by Jahangir. Shahryar, who was known
as Na-shudani or ' Good for nothing ', was easily defeated by
Asaf Khan and blinded. Shahjahan, summoned by an express
messenger, hurried to the north and gave orders for the killing
of all his male relations who might possibly claim the throne.
His orders were carried out so secretly that the exact truth
could not be known, and authors consequently differ con-
cerning both the names of the princes who perished and
the manner of their deaths. It is certain that Shahryar
and several young cousins of Shahjahan were put to death.
Da war Baksh escaped to Persia, where two European travellers,
Olearius and Ta vernier, met him.

Shahjahan, having thus cleared away all rivals, ascended
the throne in February 1628.

Wars in the Deccan. Shahjahan, like his father and grand-
father, aimed at the recovery of the lost provinces near the
Oxus and the conquest of Southern India. He was more
successful in both projects than Jahangir had been. His early
wars in the Deccan lasted for about seven years (1630-7). At
the beginning of them he had to suppress a troublesome revolt
by a noble named Khan Jahan Lodi, \vho was hunted down
and killed. Six years later the king of Bijapur promised to pay

1 The fate of Khusru, the eldest son, has been narrated. Parvlz, the
second son, died a year before his father. A son named Jahandar had died
in childhood.


tribute, and in 1637 the kingdom of Ahmadnagar was finally
annexed to the empire. Towards the close of the reign (1657)
both Bijapur and Golkonda were again attacked and seemed
to be on the point of submission, when operations were
suspended owing to the war of succession between Shahjahan's
four sons.

Kandahar, Balkh, and Badakshan. In the year which saw
the fall of Ahmadnagar (1637) Ali Mardan Khan, an officer of
the king of Persia, was persuaded to sell Kandahar for a lakh
of rupees, and to take service under Shahjahan, who promoted
him to high honour. In 1644 Ali Mardan Khan took possession
of the province of Balkh, the ancient Bactria, situated between
the Hindu Kush mountains and the Oxus. Prince Murad
Baksh, the emperor's youngest son, then occupied Badakshan,
the mountainous region to the east of Balkh, but left his
government without leave, and was superseded by his younger
brother, Prince Aurangzeb, who was driven out of Balkh with
heavy loss (1647). Kandahar was recovered by the Persians
in the following year (1648), and so passed for ever from the
control of the Mughals.

Famine in Gujarat, 1630-2. During the early years of the
Deccan wars, the province of Gujarat (including Khandesh)
suffered from a fearful famine (1630-2), described in the
Badshah-nama, and also in the Travels of Peter Mundy, an
English merchant, who journeyed on business from Surat to
Agra and Patna and back again while the famine and conse-
quent pestilence were raging. People were afraid to travel
for fear of being eaten, and ' the flesh of a son was preferred
to his love '. The ground was strewn with corpses so thickly
that Mundy could hardly find room to pitch a small tent. In
towns the dead were dragged ' out by the heels, stark naked,
of all ages and sexes, and there are left, so that the way is half
barred up. Thus it was for the most part hitherto ', that is to
say, midway between Surat and Burhanpur. The sickness
was so deadly that at Surat seventeen out of twenty-one
English traders died. Meantime, the camp of Shahjahan at


Burhanpur was overflowing with provisions. So far as Mundy
saw, the Government did nothing to help the people, but the
author of the Badshah-ndma asserts that Shahjahan opened
a few soup-kitchens, gave a lakh and a half of rupees in charity
spread over twenty weeks, and remitted one-eleventh of the
revenue. The relief thus granted was too trifling to be of any
use. Of course it would have been impossible to collect the
full assessment. Sir Richard Temple justly observes that
' it is worth while to read Mundy 's unimpassioned, matter-of-
fact observations on this famine, if only to grasp the difference
of the conditions of native life under the Mogul and the British
Governments '.

Destruction of Hindu temples. Shahjahan, who wished to
be considered an orthodox Musalman, unlike Akbar and
Jahangir, issued orders in 1632 for the destruction throughout
his dominions of all Hindu temples recently built. In the
Benares District alone seventy-six temples were destroyed in
compliance with that order. Figures for other localities are
not recorded.

The Portuguese of Hugll. Both Akbar and Jahangir had
shown favour to Christians and Christianity, one motive which
influenced Jahangir being his desire to benefit from European
trade. The Portuguese, who had been allowed to settle and
build a fort at Hugh" (Hooghly), thirty miles above the site
of Calcutta, abused the privileges granted and broke the peace
of the empire by shameless piracy and a cruel slave-trade.
They were rash enough to give special offence to Mumtaz
Mahall, who used her all-powerful influence to compass their
destruction. In 1631, the year of her death, an officer of
Shahjahan stormed the Portuguese stronghold, killing about
10,000 of the defenders, who were ' either blown up with
powder, drowned in water, or burnt by fire '. Between 4,000
and 5,000 prisoners were brought to Agra and treated with
great cruelty. Their misery, Bernier tells us, was ' un-
paralleled in the history of modern times '. Unfortunately,
it cannot be said that their sufferings were wholly undeserved.


Shahjahan pulled down the belfry of the church at Agra,
but did not completely destroy the building, which still

Character and administration of Shahjahan. Most modern
historians, dazzled by the beauty of the imperial buildings, and
misled by a phrase of Ta vernier to the effect that Shahjahan
governed his people ' like a father ' with exceptional mildness,
as well as by the authority of Elphinstone, have been inclined
to give Shahjahan undeserved praise for the supposed excel-
lence of his personal character and the alleged efficiency of his
administration. Aurangzeb has been held up to universal
reproach because he made his way to the throne through the
blood of his brothers, while Shahjahan, who did exactly the
same thing, is allowed to escape without censure. He was
even credited by Elphinstone with ' a life not sullied ' by crime.
Older writers knew better. Ta vernier, notwithstanding his
use of the phrase cited above, states plainly that Shahjahan
' by degrees murdered all those who from having shown
affection for his nephew had made themselves suspects, and
the early years of his reign were marked by cruelties which
have much tamished his memory '. The Dutch author van
den Broecke (in De Laet), writing in 1629 or 1630, while ad-
mitting that the character of the new monarch had not yet
become fully known, was convinced that a kingdom won by
so many crimes and the slaughter of so many innocent
victims, could not prosper. In reality, the personal character
'of the much-censured Aurangzeb was superior to that of
the much-praised Shahjahan, who was treacherous, cruel,
sensual, and avaricious. The ' justice ' with which he has
been credited was usually nothing better than the savage
ferocity practised by his father.

Peter Mundy, who has been already quoted, gives a glimpse
into the actual state of the empire early in the reign (1630-3).
When staying at Patna, he found that travelling whether by
river or road was unsafe, because ' this country, as all the
rest of India, swarms with rebels and thieves '. Provincial


governors sought to repress disorder by wholesale massacres,
which they were allowed to commit without check by the
imperial Government. At a place in the Cawnpore District
Mundy saw more than 200 small masonry pillars (mlnars) each
three or four yards high, and each containing, set in plaster,
thirty or forty heads of persons supposed to be thieves. When
he came back a few months later to the same camping-ground,
sixty more such pillars had been added. Thus in that one
locality a single governor had slaughtered about 8,000 people
in a short time. 1 That state of affairs was not exceptional.
' Mlnars ', we are told, ' are commonly near to great cities.'
Much other contemporary evidence might be cited to prove the
misgovernment of Shahjahan's dominions, especially in the
earlier years of his reign. Some improvement probably took
place between 1644 and 1656, when the office of prime minister
was held by Sadullah Khan Allami, who is reputed to have
been the best minister ever known in India. Whatever good
administration really existed during the reign should be
attributed to him rather than to his unscrupulous master.
Murshid Kuli Khan did good work by introducing into the
Deccan the revenue system of Todar Mall, with certain
necessary local variations.

Wealth of Shahjahan. The wealth amassed by Shahjahan
far exceeded the vast treasure left by Akbar and was of
almost incredible amount. The German traveller Mandelslo
(1638) states that he was ' credibly informed ' that the Mogul's
treasure (no doubt including jewels and bullion) exceeded
1,500 millions of crowns, or 3,000 millions of rupees, equivalent
to 337| millions of pounds sterling at the then current rate of
exchange (2s. 3d. to the rupee). Whatever the exact figures
should be, the total undoubtedly was stupendous.

Shahjahan thus possessed practically unlimited funds to
spend on the costly buildings which were his hobby. The Taj
and connected structures probably cost something like four
million pounds sterling, and the expenditure on Delhi was

1 260 pillars x 30, the minimum number of heads in each = 7,800.



equally extravagant. The splendour of the court was unex-
ampled, millions being lavished on the famous peacock throne.
All this reckless display was paid for by the people, who were
ground down by hundreds of official oppressors. A learned
Hindu historian describes the Mughal empire as ' a system of
organized brigandage '. The phrase has an element of truth
in it.

The four sons of Shahjahan. Shahjahan had four sons,
Dara Shikoh, 1 Shuja, Aurangzeb, and Murad Baksh. In 1657,
when the emperor became seriously ill, these four sons, all
men of mature age, prepared to contest the succession to the
throne. Their father had attempted to secure the succession
for the eldest by keeping him at Agra and appointing his
brothers to distant governments, but the device failed, and each
claimant, ignoring the sovereign's will, gathered his forces
and made ready for battle. Each had, as Bernier, the French
traveller, observed, ' no choice between a kingdom and death.'

The contest for the crown. Shuja in Bengal and Murad
Baksh in Gujarat each assumed imperial titles and struck coin
in his own name, of which specimens exist. The cautious and
wily Aurangzeb did nothing of the kind. The army of Dara
Shikoh, which had speedily put Shuja to flight, now had a more
serious task to face in confronting Aurangzeb. He moved
northwards in the spring of 1658, dexterously representing him-
self as being merely desirous to help Murad Baksh, with whose
levies he united his own. A fiercely contested battle between
Aurangzeb and Murad Baksh on one side and Dara Shikoh on
the other, fought at Samugarh, nine miles from Agra, ended in
the decisive victory of the younger princes.

Shahjahan confined ; Murad Baksh captured. In June,
1658, Aurangzeb, who had a friend at court in the person of
his sister Roshan Rai, made his father prisoner, confining him

1 The title means ' equal in splendour to Darius '. The common practice
of citing the prince's name as Dara, (Darius), although convenient, is
inaccurate. His personal name was Muhammad. The forms Shikoh and
Shukoh are both in use.


to the precincts of the palace, where he had the society of his
other daughter, Jahanara. Next month the hapless Murad
Baksh learned the true value of his brother's professions of
unselfish support. No difficulty was found in making the
foolish young prince hopelessly drunk, and throwing him into
chains to await execution at a more convenient time, which
came in 1660.

Fate of Dara Shikoh and Shuja. The pursuit of Dara
Shikoh was continued with unceasing vigour, and at last he
was run down in Cutch (Kacchh), brought to Delhi, and paraded
through the streets, dressed in the meanest clothes, and
mounted on a scarecrow elephant. In September, 1659, he
was beheaded, on the pretext that he had become an apostate
from Islam and the ally of infidels. It is true that Dara
Shikoh shared his great-grandfather's scepticism, but, of course,
his execution was due to his position as claimant of the throne.
Shuja made one more effort in Bengal, and was even able to
occupy Benares, Allahabad, and Jaunpur. He was overcome
by Aurangzeb's able lieutenant, Mir Jumla, and ultimately
driven into Arakan, where, according to some accounts, he was
last seen fleeing over the mountains, accompanied by three
faithful men and one woman. He certainly perished, one way
or another, and was never heard of again.

Accession of Aurangzeb ; death of his father. Aurangzeb,
who had been informally proclaimed emperor in July 1658,
was now able to assume the imperial position with full cere-
mony in May, 1659. His old father, although never permitted
to quit the palace enclosure, and subjected to many indignities,
was allowed plenty of dancing-girls, and lived a voluptuous
life until February 1, 1666, when he died at the age of seventy-
four. He was buried in the Taj, the superb monument which
he had erected to the memory of his favourite consort.

Mumtaz Mahall ; sensuality of Shahjahan. That lady,
known by the title of Mumtaz Mahall (of which ' Taj ' is a cor-
ruption), was the niece of Nurjahan, the able empress of
JahangTr. She was the mother of fourteen of Shahjahan's


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Online LibraryVincent Arthur SmithThe Oxford student's history of India → online text (page 15 of 27)