(Sample Material) IAS Mains GS Online Coaching : Paper 1 - "Modern History (Part -1)"

Sample Material of Our IAS Mains GS Online Coaching Programme

Subject: General Studies (Paper 1 - Indian Heritage and Culture, History & Geography of the World & Society)

Topic: Modern History (Part -1)



The Mughal Empire-which had earned the admiration of contempo­raries for its extensive territories, military might and cultural accomplishments disintegrated after the death of Aurangzeb. Within a short span of about 50 years, nine Mughal Emperors occupied the throne in quick succession and were not able to provide any effective government. Taking advantage of their weakness, many adventurers carved out independcni principalities of their own and freed themselves from the central control.

Aurangzeb had created more problems during his reign than he was able to solve. It is true that some of them he inherited, but many of them were his creation. Those together shook the Mughal Empire to its very foundation. No wonder, the political and financial horizon at the time of his death betokened the dark prospects of decline, decay and dissolution. The glory of the Mughal Empire was becoming past history and its tragic end was in the offing. Stanley Lanepoole writes, “Even before the end of his reign, Hindustan was in confusion and the signs of coming dissolution had appeared. As some imperial corpse, preserved for ages in its dread seclusion, crowned and armed and si ill. majestic, yet falls into dust at the mere breath of heaven, so fell the Empire of the Mughals when the great name that guarded it was no more.

It was as though some splendid palace reared with infinite skill with the costliest stones and precious metals of the earth had attained its perfect beauty only to collapse in undistinguishable ruin when the insidious roots of the creeper sapped the foundation. Even if Aurangzeb had left a successor of his own mantle and moral stature, it may be doubted whether the process of disintegration could have been stayed. The disease was too far advanced for even the heroic surgery”.

At the time of the death of Aurangzeb on 20 February 1707, the Mughal Empire consisted of 21 Subahs (provinces): one in Afghanistan, 14 in North India and 6 in the Deccan. It embraced in the North Kashmir and all Afghanistan from the Hindukush southwards to a line 36 miles North of Ghazni, on the West coast stretched in theory to the Northern frontier of Goa and inland to Belgaum and the Tungabhadfa river.’ No Emperor of India since the death of Asoka had ruled over such extensive territories. The years 1686-89 which saw the annexation of Bijapur and Golkunda and the apparent collapse of the Maratha power, marked the zenith of Mughal political ascendancy.

However, the vast extent of his Empire was a source of weakness and not strength. It was too large to be ruled by one man from one centre. The religious policy of Aurangzeb affected the fortunes of the Mughal Empire. Religious persecution acted as a provocation in the risings of_ the Satnamis, the Bundelas and the Sikhs. The fear of suppression of Hinduism was an important factor. The urge to uphold Hindu Dharma stiffened the resistance of the Marathas. The imposition of Jizya offend­ed the sentiments and injured the material interests of the Hindus.

Aurangzeb’s zeal for Islam weakened the foundations of his multi-religious imperial structure. The attempt to annex Marwar was a grave mistake. It led to a long and costly war in Rajasthan. It alienated the Rajputs whose political and military support had played a vital role in the consolidation and maintenance of Mughal power for a century.

The Deccan war of Aurangzeb contributed substantially to the dec­line of the Mughal Empire. That endless war exhausted the treasury. The Government became bankrupt. The soldiers starving from arrears of pay, mutinied. The Maratha country became “devoid of trees and bare of crops, their place being taken by the bones of men and beasts.” In two years (1702-4), plague and famine took a toll of over iwo million souls.

The Deccan war affected the administration and economy of North India. Aurangzeb’s long absence from his capital weakened the Central Government in its relations with the provinces. The provincial Governors (Subahdars), largely free from his supervision and control, ceased to have respect or fear for imperial authority.

The administra­tive machinery in the provinces was weakened because their best soldiers, highest officers and all their collected revenues were sent to the Deccan. The older and more settled, peaceful and prosperous provinces in the North were left to be governed by ‘minor officers with small contingents and incomes quite inadequate for maintaining central authority. All classes of lawless men began to raise their heads.

Desultory war ruined large parts of Rajasthan. Some Rajput Zamindars created disturbances in Malwa. The plundering Maratha bands penetrated into Malwa and Gujarat. The Tats carried on raids in the Agra region. The Sikhs fought against the Mughals and the hill Rajas in the Punjab. In Bengal, there were hostilities between the English traders and the Mughal officers. In his exile in the Deccan, Aurangzeb lost his grip over the administra­tion of those provinces which formed the backbone of the Mughal Empire.

A large portion of the income of the Mughal state was spent on the army on account of constant warfare. The number of Mansabdars rose from 8000 under Shah Jahan to 14,449 under Aurangzeb. The army bill of Aurangzeb was roughly double of that of Shah Jahan. Out of 14,449 Mansabdars under Aurangzeb, about 7000 were paid through Jagirs and 7450 were paid in cash. The Mansabdari system reached a crisis as a result of the enormous increase in the number of the Mansab­dars who had to be paid through Jagirs.

As the number of Jagirs was not adequate, many Mansabdars had to wait for some time before they could get Jagirs, Even when Jagirs were available in the Deccan, the Government’ could not always ensure security of tenure because those were often exposed to the risk of sudden occupation by the Marathas. Constant military operations in the Deccan and disturbances and law­lessness in the North Indian provinces, reduced cultivation in both regions and the peasants were jiot able to pay their full “dues to the Jagirdars. The uncertainty about the income from their Jagirs weakened the numerical strength of the army. Large-scale corruption crept into the Mansabdari system and sapped the foundations of the Mughal military power.


Bengal Subha : Murshid Kuli Khan

When the Mughal Empire began to disintegrate, many provinces virtually became independent. The Subah of Bengal was the first to become autonomous and the first to pass under British rule. It became autonomous under Murshid Quli Khan, a South Indian Brahman con­vert to Islam. He was educated in Persia. He served his apprenticeship in Mughal administration in the Deccan. He won the confidence of Aurangzeb by honest and efficient discharge of his duties.

He was ap­pointed Diwan of Bengal Subah in 1700 A.D. In 1701, the Diwani of Orissa was added to his charge. In 1704, the Diwani of Bihar was also given to him. He kept Aurangzeb satisfied by regular transmission of large amounts of money for the Deccan War. On account of his dis­agreement with the Subahdar Azim-ush-Shan, the grandson of Aurang­zeb, Murshid” Quli Khan transferred Diwani office from Dacca, the pro­vincial capital, to Maqsudabad whose name was later on changed to Murshidabad.

At  the time of the death of Aurangzeb, Murshid Quli Khan was Naib Nazim or Deputy Governor of Bengal and full Governor of Orissa and Diwan of Bengal and Orissa. In February 1713, Farrukh siyar con­ferred on him the Diwani of Bengal. In September 1713, he made him also Deputy Governor of Bengal. On 6 May 1714, he received Subahdari of Orissa. In September 1717, he was made full Subahdar of Bengal.

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