• Along with the decline of the Mughal empire, another major theme of the 18th Century was the emergence of regional polities. Broadly there were three kinds of states which came into prominence:
    • the states which broke away from the Mughal empire,
    • the new states set up by the rebels against the Mughal, and
    • the independent states.


Other Indian Kingdoms in 18th Century in brief:

  1. Bengal
    • The province or the Subah of Bengal gradually became independent of Mughal control after Murshid Quli Khan became the governor in 1717.
      • Initially, Aurangzeb had appointed him the diwan (collector of revenue) of Bengal to streamline the revenue administration of the province
    • Later in 1717 when he was appointed the governor or Nazim of Bengal, he was given the unprecedented privilege of holding the two offices of nazim and diwan simultaneously
  • The division of power, which was maintained throughout the Mughal period to keep both the imperial officers under control through a system of checks and balances, was thus done away with
  • This helped Murshid Quli, who was already known for his efficient revenue administration, to consolidate his position further
  • He did not of course formally defy Mughal authority and regularly sent revenue to the imperial treasury
  • But within his own domain he acted as an autonomous ruler and in a true dynastic fashion named his daughter’s son Sarfaraz Khan his successor.
  • But Sarfaraz was ousted by his father Shujauddin Muhammad Khan (Murshid Quli’s son-in-law), who took control of the two provinces of Bengal and Orissa in 1727
  • The gradual rise in the power of the merchants, bankers and zamindars also meant a relative diminution of the authority of the nazim
    • This became quite evident in a coup in 1739-40, in which Shujauddin’s son Sarfaraz Khan, who had become the new nazim, was ousted by his army commander Alivardi Khan
  • Finally, It was Alivardi’s reign, which marked a virtual break with the Mughals
    • All major appointments were now made without any reference to the emperor and finally, the regular

flow of revenue to Delhi was stopped

  • Alivardi died in 1756, nominating his grandson Siraj-ud-daula his successor
    • But his succession was challenged by two other contenders for the throne, which resulted in intense court factionalism
  • This destabilised the administration of Bengal, and the advantage was taken by the English East India Company, which acquired a foothold in Bengal politics through what is popularly known as the Plassey conspiracy of 1757 that ended the rule of Siraj-ud-daula


  1. AWADH
    • Another Mughal province that became autonomous in the course of the eighteenth century was Awadh
  • Saadat Khan was appointed the Mughal governor of Awadh in 1722 with the difficult charge of subduing rebellions by the local rajas and chiefs
  • Soon after this, Saadat Khan returned to the capital to consolidate his position in the imperial court, but ended up in a quarrel with one of Muhammad Shah’s favourites and was again forced to return to Awadh.
    • Frustrated in court politics, Saadat then decided to build up a power base in Awadh
    • Towards the establishment of his dynastic rule, he made office of diwan virtually independent of all imperial control
  • The jagirdari system was reformed, with jagirs being granted to the local gentry, while a rich flow of trade kept the province affluent.
    • This resulted in the creation of a new regional ruling elite, consisting mainly of Indian Muslims, Afghans and Hindus who became Saadat’s main support base.
  • Thus, by the time he died in 1740, Saadat had certainly developed in Awadh a semi- autonomous regional political system
  • Later, When Nadir Shah remained the emperor of India for just two months and he settled the succession question in Awadh by accepting twenty million rupees as peshkash from Safdar Jung, Saadat Khan’s son-in-law
    • Muhammad Shah(Mughal Emperor) later confirmed this appointment and conferred on him an imperial title.
  • Further, after Safdar Jung’s death in late 1754, his only son Shuja-ud-daula was again appointed the governor of Awadh by the puppet emperor Alamgir II.
    • And Shuja too successfully maintained the autonomy of the Awadh subah without ever formally defying the symbolic authority of the Mughal emperor
  • Later, when Afghan leader Ahmad Shah Abdali arrived again in India to engage the Marathas in the Third

Battle of Panipat (1761), Shuja joined the Afghan invader to see his local opponents, the Marathas, humbled and weakened

  • Eventually, within his own domain of Awadh and Allahabad his autonomy and power remained unchallenged till his encounter with the English East India Company in 1764.


    • The Rajput rulers did not lag behind in consolidating their position by taking advantage of the disintegration of the Mughal empire
    • None were large enough to contend with the Marathas or the British for the position of paramount power
    • They participated in the struggle for power at the court of Delhi and gained lucrative and influential governorships from the Mughal emperors.
    • Rajput policy continued to be fractured in the post Mughal period.
    • All the states followed a policy of constant expansion absorbing weak neighbours whenever possible. This took place within the State too, with one faction ousting the other
  • As a result, the most well-known Rajput ruler, Jai Singh of Amber rules Jaipur from 1699 to 1743


    • Further south, the southernmost state of Travancore had always maintained its independence from Mughal rule.
    • It gained in importance after 1729 when its king Marranda Varma started expanding his dominions with the help of a strong and modern army trained along Western lines and equipped with modern weapons
    • The Dutch were ousted from the region; the English were made to accept his terms of trade; local feudal chiefs were suppressed; and smaller principalities governed by collateral branches of the royal family were taken over
    • Travancore withstood the shock of a Mysorean invasion in 1766 and under Martanda Varma’s successor Rama Varma, its capital, Trivandrum, became a centre of scholarship and art.
      • In his death towards the closing years of the eighteenth century the region lost its former glory and soon succumbed to British pressure, accepting a Resident in 1800


Summary of 18th Century Kingdoms in India

  • The major characteristic of eighteenth-century India was, therefore the weakening of the centralised Mughal empire and a dispersal of political power across the regions
  • The symbols of Mughal authority were still recognised, the Mughal system also continued, although in some areas its content was substantially changed
  • Eventually, although the successor states continued Mughal institutions and perhaps also inherited some of their weaknesses-there were also indications of significant innovation and improvement—both in terms of political rituals and insignia, as also in perfecting mechanisms of resource extraction from agriculture and trade
  • At a political level all these states continually made adjustments between concepts of centralised kingship and local loyalties, between pre-bended lordship and hereditary rights, or in more general terms, between centripetal and centrifugal tendencies
  • Hence, the progression of Kingdoms as detailed above, and their eventual subjugation by the British; who took control later in 19th Century India