Fall of Mughals

The period of the Great Mughals, which began in 1526 with Babur’s accession to the throne, ended with the death of Aurangzeb in 1707. Aurangzeb’s death marked the end of an era in Indian history. When Aurangzeb died, the empire of the Mughals was the largest in India. Yet, within about fifty years of his death, the Mughal Empire disintegrated.

The reasons responsible for the decline of the Mughal empire in India are:

  • Wars of Succession:
    • The Mughals did not follow any law of succession like the law of primogeniture.
    • Consequently, each time a ruler died, a war of succession between the brothers for the throne started.
    • This weakened the Mughal Empire, especially after Aurangzeb.
    • The nobles, by siding with one contender or the other, increased their own power.
  • Aurangzeb’s Policies:
    • Aurangzeb failed to realize that the vast Mughal Empire depended on the willing support of the people.
    • Aurangzeb’s religious orthodoxy and his policy towards the Hindus damaged the stability of the Mughal empire
    • He lost the support of the Rajputs who had contributed greatly to the strength of the Empire.
    • They had acted as pillars of support, but Aurangzeb’s policy turned them to bitter foes.
    • The wars with the Sikhs, the Marathas, the Jats and the Rajputs had drained the resources of the Mughal Empire.
  • Weak Successors of Aurangzeb:
    • The successors of Aurangzeb were weak and became victims of the intrigues and conspiracies of the faction-ridden nobles.
    • They were inefficient generals and incapable of suppressing revolts.
    • The absence of a strong ruler, an efficient bureaucracy and a capable army had made the Mughal Empire weak.
    • After Bahadur Shah’s reign came a long list of weak, worthless and luxury-loving Kings.
  • Empty Treasury:
    • Shah Jahan’s zeal for construction had depleted the treasury.
    • Aurangzeb’s long wars in the south had further drained the exchequer.
  • Invasions:
    • Foreign invasions sapped the remaining strength of the Mughals and hastened the process of disintegration.
    • The invasions of Nadir Shah and Ahmad Shah Abdali resulted in further drainage of wealth.
    • These invasions shook the very stability of the empire.
  • Size of the Empire and Challenge from Regional Powers:
    • The Mughal Empire had become too large to be controlled by any ruler from one centre i.e. Delhi.
    • The Great Mughals were efficient and exercised control over ministers and army, but the later Mughals were poor administrators.
    • As a result, the distant provinces became independent. The rise of independent states led to the disintegration of the Mughal Empire.
  • Rise of independent states in the 18th century:
    • With the decline of the Mughal Empire a number of provinces seceded from the empire and several independent states came into existence.
    • Hyderabad:
      • The State of Hyderabad was founded by Qamar-ud-din Siddiqi, who was appointed Viceroy of the Deccan, with the title of Nizam-ul- Mulk, by Emperor Farrukhsiyar in 1712.
      • He established a virtually independent state but returned to Delhi during the reign of Emperor Mohammad Shah.
      • In 1724, he was reappointed Viceroy of the Deccan with the title of Asaf Jah.
    • Bengal:
      • Bengal in the 18th century comprised Bengal, Bihar and Orissa.
      • Murshid Quli Khan was the Diwan of Bengal under Aurangzeb.
      • Farrukhsiyar appointed him Subedar (governor) of Bengal in 1717.
    • Awadh:
      • The subah of Awadh comprised Benaras and some districts near Allahabad.
      • Saadat Khan Burhan-ul-Mulk was appointed Governor of Awadh by the Mughal Emperor.
      • But he soon became independent.
    • Deterioration of land relations
      • Shahjahan and Aurangzeb opted for jagirs and Paibaqi instead of paying directly from state treasury to the officials.
      • Jagirs refer to temporary allotment of lands to officials for their services which may be according to the satisfaction of the Emperor.
      • Paibaqi refers to revenue from reserved lands which were sent to the central treasury.
      • There was a constant clash of interest between the nobles and zamindars.
    • Rise of the Marathas
      • Marathas consolidated their position in Western India
      • They started making plans for a greater Maharashtra empire.


The decline of the Mughal Empire was due to social, economic, political and institutional factors. By 1813, the British government took away the power that allowed the East India Company’s monopoly and later, the company worked on behalf of the government. In 1857, the Indian Rebellion occured which prompted the British colonial office to exile the last emperor, Bahadur Shah II, and take complete control of the Indian subcontinent.

Possible Questions on this topic:

  1. What were the reasons responsible for the decline of the Mughal empire in India. Discuss.(250 words)
  2. Social decay, deterioration of the previous order and long spells of chaos and disorder are some of the main causes of decline of the Great Mughal Empire in India. Deliberate.(250 words)
  3. “The major characteristics of eighteenth-century India was therefore the weakening of the centralised Mughal empire and a dispersal of political power across the regions.” Discuss such dispersal of political power in South India. (200 Words)