Aurangzeb (1658-1707 A.D.)
The last of the ‘great Mughals’, Aurangzeb ruled for almost 50 years. His empire covered nearly the whole of India. The reign of Aurangzeb can be divided into two phases:
- 1658-1680 A.D., when Aurangzeb was in North India
- 1681-1707 A.D., when Aurangzeb was in the Deccan
The reign of Aurangzeb witnessed numerous revolts in different parts of the empire. The revolts in northern India was limited to specific regions. Aurangzeb had increased the land tax, which had been one-third during the reign of Akbar, to one-half of the produce. The Jat peasants of the Agra-Mathura region rebelled against the high land tax. The Satnamis and the Bundelas also revolted against Aurangzeb.
The most powerful revolts during this period were that of the Rajputs, the Sikhs and the Marathas. Most of the time, Aurangzeb was busy in putting down these revolts. The royal treasury was also depleted. Little by little, these revolts pushed the Mughal empire on the path towards decline.
Aurangzeb spent the last 26 years of his reign in the Deccan. He wanted to achieve two objectives-establish control over the Deccan and crush the power of the Marathas.
Aurangzeb annexed Bijapur in 1686 and Golconda in 1687. The annexation of these territories, however, did not benefit the empire. It was difficult to administer them as they were too far from the capital. Also, the Mughals came face to face with the Marathas. Aurangzeb tried to weaken the Marathas but failed. Even after realising that the Marathas were a powerful enemy, he did not try to make peace with them and return to the north. His stubbornness to reconcile to the situation was a factor in the weakening of the empire.
The Deccan policy of Aurangzeb was a failure. He failed to crush the power of the Marathas. Continuous wars emptied the royal treasury. Besides, these wars led to the loss of a large number of soldiers. Due to Aurangzeb’s long absence, administration in the north suffered. Numerous revolts, challenging Mughal authority, also broke out.
Aurangzeb, the King
Aurangzeb was an orthodox, God-fearing ruler. Unlike the earlier Mughal emperors, he had a very simple lifestyle. That is why he was popularly called ‘zinda pir’ or a ‘living saint’.
As a ruler, Aurangzeb was short-sighted. He became extremely unpopular when he re-introduced ‘jaziya’, the poll tax which the non-Muslims had to pay. People reacted strongly against this discrimination on religious grounds. Gradually, the policies of Aurangzeb pushed the empire towards decline.
The Mughal Court
The court, during the Sultanate period was very ceremonial inï¿½nature. The king had an exalted status. He sat on a throne. Theï¿½other people in the court were assigned fixed places to sit or stand,ï¿½the more important ones being near to the sultan. During theï¿½reign of Akbar, along with sijdah and paibos, kurnish (placing theï¿½right hand upon the forehead and bending the head downwards)ï¿½and taslim (placing the back of the right hand on the floor andï¿½then raising it gently till one stood erect) were also performed.
Most of the Mughal rulers held regular public audiencesï¿½where they listened to reports from their nobles and headsï¿½of different departments. There was also a time fixed whenï¿½the common people could come to the court and place theirï¿½petitions before the king. The sultan held his court in the Diwani-Khas (hall of private audience) or in the Diwan-i-Aam (hall ofï¿½public audience).
When the sultan was away from his capital, his courtï¿½moved with him. However, during these times, it was not suchï¿½an elaborate affair. The affairs of the court were then held underï¿½huge tents.ï¿½In the seventeenth century, the Mughal court was dividedï¿½into two groups – the liberal and the orthodox. Since Jahangirï¿½and Shah Jahan were tolerant rulers, the liberal group wasï¿½dominant in religious matters. Under Aurangzeb, who was anï¿½orthodox Muslim, the orthodox group had the upper hand.
Mughal administration was a mix of central Asian ideas andï¿½Indian traditions. It was a centralised monarchy, with the kingï¿½enjoying absolute power.
The king was the head of civil and military administration. He was assisted by a number of officers. The wazir was the head of the revenue department. The mir bakshi looked after military administration. The khanisaman attended to the needs of the royal household. The sadr-i-sadur kept a record of grants and donations made by the king. The qazi was the chief judge.
To ensure administrationï¿½efficiency, the empire was divided into 15 provinces called subas.ï¿½Each suba was governed by a governor, called a ‘subadar’. Heï¿½served as a link between his province and the king. Each subaï¿½was divided into sarkars or districts; and each sarkar into manyï¿½parganas. A number of villages made up a pargana.
The officer-in-charge of town administration was called theï¿½’ kotwal. He performed both police and civil duties. He caughtï¿½and punished criminals and maintained law and order. Hisï¿½civil duties included keeping a check on weights and measuresï¿½and maintaining a list of people living in the area under hisï¿½jurisdiction. His office was called the ‘kotwali’, a term that is stillï¿½used.
There were two main sources ofï¿½revenue for the kingdom-land and trade. Land was the mainï¿½source. Akbar carried out a lot of reforms in land revenueï¿½administration. His revenue minister, Raja Todar Mal, introducedï¿½a land revenue arrangement which came to be known as Todarï¿½Mal’s bandobast.
Under the system introduced by Todar Mal, land wasï¿½measured and divided into good, middling and bad. Landï¿½revenue was fixed according to the fertility of the land. In 1580,ï¿½a system called the dahsala was introduced. The average produceï¿½and the average price prevailing over the last ten (dah) years wasï¿½calculated. The revenue for the year was calculated on the basisï¿½of this average. One-third of this figure was taken as the shareï¿½of the king. It could be paid either in cash or in kind, thoughï¿½the king preferred cash. This system continued in more or lessï¿½the same way under Akbar’s successors also.
The revenue from trade was much less compared to thatï¿½from the land. Still, both internal as well as overseas trade wasï¿½encouraged by the rulers. Trade was carried on with China,ï¿½central Asia and later, with Europe. The main items of exportï¿½were textiles, spices indigo and saltpetre.ï¿½Army Administration: The most important feature of theï¿½administration of the army under the Mughals was theï¿½mansabdari system. The term ‘mansab’ means a rank orï¿½position. The mansabdar was he official who held this rank. Heï¿½had to maintain a certain number of mounted soldiers for useï¿½by the emperor. The number of horsemen he would maintainï¿½depended upon his rank. The ranks ranged from 10 to 10,000ï¿½horsemen. Generally, ranks above 5,000 were reserved for theï¿½princes. In addition to soldiers and their horses, a fixed numberï¿½of elephants, camels, carts, etc, also had to be maintained byï¿½the mansabdar.
The mansabdars were paid through jagirs. The jagirs wereï¿½allotted on the basis of the rank of the mansabdar. Higher rankedï¿½mansabdars were assigned bigger jagirs. The manasb or rank of aï¿½mansabdar was not hereditary. When a mansabdar died, his jagirï¿½was taken away by the king and was allotted to someone else.
Agriculture was the main source of revenue for the empire. Theï¿½money obtained from land was used to maintain large armies,ï¿½pay salaries to officers and fund the luxurious lifestyles of theï¿½kings, nobles and jagirdars.
All the rulers tried to increase the productivity of theï¿½existing land. They also encouraged peasants to bring more landï¿½under cultivation. Loans were given to peasants so that theyï¿½could buy better seeds, agricultural implements, etc. In timesï¿½of natural calamities, the revenue was reduced or sometimesï¿½totally written off.
Most peasants lived at a subsistence level. They paid onethird of the total produce as revenue to the king. This graduallyï¿½increased to one-half of the produce. Theoretically, the peasantsï¿½had a hereditary right to cultivate their land. They could notï¿½be ejected from their land as long as they paid the revenue.ï¿½However, increasing demand for revenue gradually resulted inï¿½many peasants becoming landless. They began to work on theï¿½land of the zamindar for wages.
The seventeenth century was a period of magnificence. Theï¿½Mughal Empire was at its peak. During the reign of Aurangzeb,ï¿½however, there were many revolts in northern India. Theï¿½Marathas emerged as a very powerful force. The empire hadï¿½grown too big to be controlled effectively. Signs of decay andï¿½decline had become visible by the end of Aurangzeb’s reign.
Written by princy