Chapter 10. Eighteenth-Century Political Formations

• By 1765, notice how another power, British, had successfully grabbed major chunks of territory in eastern India. The political conditions in eighteenthcentury India changed quite dramatically and within a relatively short span of time.

The Crisis of Empire and Later Mughals
• Emperor Aurangzeb had depleted military and financial resources of his empire by fighting a long war in Deccan. Under his successors, efficiency of imperial administration broke down. It became increasingly difficult for later Mughal emperors to keep a check on their powerful mansabdars.
• Noble appointed governors (subadars) often controlled offices of revenue and military administration (diwani and faujdari) as well. This gave them extraordinary political, economic & military powers over vast regions of Mughal Empire. As governors consolidated their control over provinces, periodic remission of revenue to capital declined.
• Peasant and zamindari rebellions in many parts of northern and western India added to these problems. These revolts were sometimes caused by pressures of mounting taxes.
• The Mughal emperors after Aurangzeb were unable to arrest gradual shifting of political and economic authority into hands of provincial governors, local chieftains and other groups.
• In midst of this economic and political crisis, ruler of Iran, Nadir Shah, sacked & plundered city of Delhi in 1739 and took away immense amounts of wealth. This invasion was followed by a series of plundering raids by Afghan ruler Ahmad Shah Abdali, who invaded north India five times between 1748 and 1761.
• There were, two major groups or factions, Iranis & Turanis (nobles of Turkish descent), for a long time, later Mughal emperors were puppets in hands of either one or other of these two powerful groups.

Emergence of New States
• With decline in authority of Mughal emperors, governors of large provinces, subadars & great zamindars consolidated their authority in different parts of subcontinent. Through eighteenth century, Mughal Empire gradually fragmented into a number of independent, regional states.
• Broadly speaking states of eighteenth century can be divided into three overlapping groups: 1. States that were old Mughal provinces: Awadh, Bengal & Hyderabad. 2. States that had enjoyed considerable independence under Mughals as watan jagirs. 3. The last group included states under control of Marathas, Sikhs & others like Jats.

The Old Mughal Provinces
• Awadh, Bengal & Hyderabad, all three states were founded by members of high Mughal nobility who had been governors of large provinces – Saadat Khan (Awadh), Murshid Quli Khan (Bengal) and Asaf Jah (Hyderabad). All three had occupied high mansabdari positions and enjoyed trust and confidence of emperors.

• Nizam-ul-Mulk, Asaf Jah, founder of Hyderabad state (1724-1748), was one of most powerful members at court of Mughal Emperor Farrukhsiyar. He was entrusted first with governorship of Awadh and later given charge of Deccan.
• Asaf Jah brought skilled soldiers and administrators from northern India who welcomed new opportunities in south. He appointed mansabdars and granted jagirs. Although he was still a servant of Mughal emperor, he ruled quite independently without seeking any direction from Delhi or facing any interference.
• The state of Hyderabad was constantly engaged in a struggle against Marathas to west and with independent Telugu warrior chiefs (nayakas) of plateau. The ambitions of Nizam-ul-Mulk, Asaf Jah to control rich textile-producing areas of Coromandel coast in east were checked by British who were becoming increasingly powerful in that region.

• Burhan-ul-Mulk Saadat Khan was appointed subadar of Awadh in 1722 and founded a state which was one of most important to emerge out of breakup of Mughal Empire. Awadh was a prosperous region, controlling rich alluvial Ganga plain and main trade route between north India and Bengal.
• Burhan-ul-Mulk tried to decrease Mughal influence in Awadh region by reducing number of office holders (jagirdars) appointed by Mughals. He reduced size of jagirs and appointed his own loyal servants to vacant positions. He seized a number of Rajput zamindaris and agriculturally fertile lands of Afghans of Rohilkhand.

• Bengal gradually broke away from Mughal control under Murshid Quli Khan who was appointed as naib, deputy to governor of province. Although never a formal subadar, Murshid Quli Khan very quickly seized all power that went with that office. In an effort to reduce Mughal influence in Bengal he transferred all Mughal jagirdars to Orissa and ordered a major reassessment of revenues of Bengal.
• Revenue was collected in cash with great strictness from all zamindars. As a result, many zamindars had to borrow money from bankers and moneylenders. Those unable to pay were forced to sell their lands to larger zamindars.
• If we take a bird’s eye view, we can detect three common features amongst these states:
• First, though many of larger states were established by erstwhile Mughal nobles, they were highly suspicious of some of administrative systems that they had inherited, in particular jagirdari system.
• Second, their method of tax collection differed. Rather than relying upon officers of state, all three regimes contracted with revenue-farmers for collection of revenue.
• The third common feature in all these regional states was their emerging relationship with rich bankers and merchants. These people lent money to revenue farmers, received land as security and collected taxes from these lands through their own agents.
• Many Rajput rulers had accepted suzerainty of Mughals but Mewar was only Rajput state which defied Mughal authority. Rana Pratap ascended throne at Mewar in 1572, with Udaipur and large part of Mewar under his control. A series of envoys were sent to Rana to persuade him to accept Mughal suzerainty, but he stood his ground.

The Watan Jagirs of Rajputs
• Many Rajput kings, particularly those belonging to Amber and Jodhpur, had served under Mughals with distinction. In exchange, they were permitted to enjoy considerable autonomy in their watan jagirs.
• These influential Rajput families claimed subadari of rich provinces of Gujarat and Malwa. Raja Ajit Singh of Jodhpur held governorship of Gujarat and Sawai Raja Jai Singh of Amber was governor of Malwa. These offices were renewed by Emperor Jahandar Shah in 1713.
• Nagaur was conquered and annexed to house of Jodhpur, while Amber seized large portions of Bundi. Sawai Raja Jai Singh founded his new capital at Jaipur and was given subadari of Agra in 1722. Maratha campaigns into Rajasthan from 1740s put severe pressure on these principalities and checked their further expansion.
• Sawai Jai Singh, ruler of Amber constructed five astronomical observatories, one each in Delhi, Jaipur, Ujjain, Mathura & Varanasi, commonly called Jantar Mantar, these observatories had various instruments to study heavenly bodies.
• Raja Jai Singh was at height of his power. He was governor of Agra for 12 years and of Malwa for 5 or 6 years. He possessed a large army, artillery & great wealth. His sway extended from Delhi to banks of Narmada

Seizing Independence The Sikhs
• The organisation of Sikhs into a political community during seventeenth century helped in regional state-building in Punjab. Several battles were fought by Guru Gobind Singh against Rajput and Mughal rulers, both before and after institution of Khalsa in 1699. After his death in 1708, Khalsa rose in revolt against Mughal authority under Banda Bahadur’s leadership, declared their sovereign rule by striking coins in name of Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh and established their own administration between Sutlej and Jamuna.
• Under a number of able leaders in eighteenth century, Sikhs organized themselves into a number of bands known as jathas and later on misls. Their combined forces were called grand army (dal khalsa). The entire body used to meet at Amritsar at time of Baisakhi and Diwali to take collective decisions called ‘resolutions of Guru (gurmatas)’.
• Guru Gobind Singh had inspired Khalsa with belief that their destiny was to rule (raj karega khalsa). Their well-knit organization enabled them to put up a successful resistance to Mughal governors first and then to Ahmad Shah Abdali who had seized rich province of Punjab and Sarkar of Sirhind from Mughals.
• The Sikh territories in late eighteenth century extended from Indus to Jamuna but they were divided under different rulers. One of them, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, reunited these groups and established his capital at Lahore in 1799.

The Marathas
• The Maratha kingdom was another powerful regional kingdom to arise out of a sustained opposition to Mughal rule. Shivaji (1627-1680) carved out a stable kingdom with support of powerful warrior families (deshmukhs).
• Shivaji used these forces to challenge Mughals in peninsula. After Shivaji’s death, effective power in Maratha state was wielded by a family of Chitpavan Brahmanas who served Shivaji’s successors as Peshwa (or principal minister). Poona became capital of Maratha kingdom.
• Towards end of 17th century a powerful state started emerging in Deccan under leadership of Shivaji which finally led to establishment of Maratha state. Shivaji was born to Shahji and Jija Bai at Shivneri in 1630.
• Under guidance of his mother and his guardian Dada Konddev, Shivaji embarked on a career of conquest at a young age. The occupation of Javli made him undisputed leader of Mavala highlands which paved way for further expansion.
• His exploits against forces of Bijapur and Mughals made him a legendary figure. He often resorted to guerrilla warfare against his opponents. By introducing an efficient administrative system supported by a revenue collection method based on chauth and sardeshmukhi he laid foundations of a strong Maratha state.
• Between 1720 and 1761, Maratha Empire expanded. It gradually chipped away at authority of Mughal Empire. Malwa and Gujarat were seized from Mughals by 1720s. By 1730s, Maratha king was recognised as overlord of entire Deccan peninsula. He possessed right to levy chauth and sardeshmukhi in entire region.
• Baji Rao I, called Baji Rao Ballal was son of Peshwa Balaji Vishwanath. He was a great Maratha general who is credited to have expanded Maratha kingdom beyond Vindhyas and is known for his military campaigns against Malwa, Bundelkhand, Gujarat & Portugese.
• Chauth 25 per cent of land revenue claimed by zamindars, In Deccan this was collected by Marathas.
• Sardeshmukhi 9-10 per cent of land revenue paid to head revenue collector in Deccan.

The Jats
• The Jats consolidated their power during late seventeenth and eighteenth-centuries. Under their leader, Churaman, they acquired control over territories situated to west of city of Delhi and by 1680s they had begun dominating region between two imperial cities of Delhi and Agra.
• The Jats were prosperous agriculturists and towns like Panipat and Ballabhgarh became important trading centres in areas dominated by them. Under Suraj Mal kingdom of Bharatpur emerged as a strong state.
• When Nadir Shah sacked Delhi in 1739, many of city’s notables took refuge there. His son Jawahir Shah had 30,000 troops of his own and hired another 20,000 Maratha and 15,000 Sikh troops to fight Mughals.

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