The Rise of Independent Kingdoms

Punjab under the Sikhs

The Sikhs became a strong political and military force under Guru Gobind Singh. He organised the Sikhs into a disciplined military group called the Khalsa (meaning ‘the pure’). After his death, the leadership of the Sikhs passed into the hands of Banda Bahadur. He continued the struggle against the Mughals.

The Sikhs became very powerful in the second half of the eighteenth century. They organised themselves into political groups called misls. In all, there were 12 misls. Each misl had its own leader who controlled a specific area and fought against the other misls. Toward the end of the eighteenth century, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the leader of the Sukerchakia misl, united all the misls and established an independent kingdom in Punjab.

The Rajputs

Most of the Rajput kingdoms, since the reign of Akbar, had been close allies of the Mughals. However, when Mughal power began to decline, they became independent. The most outstanding Rajput ruler of this period was Sawai Raja Jai Singh of Amber (now called Jaipur). He encouraged the teachings and learning of science in an age when the Indians were unaware of the scientific achievements of the West. He founded the city of Jaipur and built astronomical observatories at Delhi, Mathura, Ujjain and Benaras.

Awadh

Saadat Khan was appointed the governor of Awadh in the year 1722 by the Mughal emperor, Muhammad Shah. At this time, the zamindars of Awadh were rebellious, had their own army and refused to pay land tax or acknowledge the authority of the emperor. Saadat Khan suppressed the rebellious zamindars, reformed the revenue system and established peace in the region. He was succeeded in the year 1739 by Safdar Jung.

Saadat Khan and his successors ruled Awadh as independent rulers. They provided good administration to the people. Lucknow was the capital of the Awadh rulers. It has many beautiful moments dating back to this period.

Bengal

Murshid Quli Khan was the governor of Bengal under the Mughals. Taking advantage of a weak centre, he began to rule independently. He made Murshidabad his capital. In the year 1727 , he was succeeded by Shuja-ud-Din, who ruled till 1739. After him, Alivardi Khan and then Siraj-ud-Daulah ruled over Bengal.

The rulers of Bengal improved the administration and encouraged agriculture, industry and trade. Loans were given to poor peasants. A strict control was maintained on the collection of custom duties. Due to good governance, Bengal became one of the most prosperous regions of India.

Hyderabad

The kingdom of Hyderabad was founded by Chin Qilich Khan in the year 1724. He was the wazir of the Mughal king, Muhammad Shah and had been awarded the title of ‘Nizam-ul-Mulk’. Though he did not formally declare his independence, he ruled over Hyderabad as an independent ruler. His successors belonged to the Asaf Jahi Dynasty and were known as the ‘Nizams’.

Mysore

Mysore became a powerful kingdom under Hyder Ali. He started his career as a foot soldier and gradually rose to become the ruler of Mysore in the year 1761. As a ruler, he controlled the rebellious zamindars and improved the condition of the peasants. He also modernised his army. With the help of the French, he established a modern arsenal at Dindigul. In 1769, he defeated the British in the First Anglo-Mysore War. He died in 1782 . Hyder Ali was succeeded by his son, Tipu Sultan. He was known as the ‘Tiger of Mysore’. Tipu was deeply influenced by the ideas of the French Revolution. He introduced modern weapons in his army and made an effort to build a modern navy. He also realised the importance of trade and industry and tried to introduce modern industries in India. He died fighting the British, during the course of the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War (1799).

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