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Part 4 - The Mogul Empire 

Akber died in 1605 and was succeeded by his son Selim, who took the title of Jehan Gir. The Deckan, hardly subdued, achieved something like independence under a great soldier and administrator of Abyssinian origin, named Malik Amber. In the sixth year of his reign Jehan Gir married the beautiful Nur Jehan, by whose influence the emperor's natural brutality was greatly modified in practice. His son, Prince Khurram, later known as Shah Jehan, distinguished himself in war with the Rajputs, displaying a character not unworthy of his grandfather. In 1616 the embassy of Sir Thomas Roe from James I visited the Court of the Great Mogul. Sir Thomas was received with great honour, and is full of admiration of Jehan Gir's splendour. It is clear, however, that the high standards set up by Akber were fast losing their efficacy. 

Jehan Gir died in 1627 and was succeeded by Shah Jehan. Much of his reign was largely occupied with wars in the Deckan and beyond the northwest frontier on which the emperor's son Aurangzib was employed. Most of the Deckan was brought into subjection, but Candahar was finally lost. Shah Jehan was the most magnificent of all the Moguls. In spite of his wars, Hindustan itself enjoyed uninterrupted tranquillity, and on the whole, a good Government. It was he who constructed the fabulously magnificent peacock throne, built Delhi anew, and raised the most exquisite of all Indian buildings, the Taj Mahal or Pearl Mosque, at Agre. After a reign of thirty years he was deposed by his son Aurangzib, known also as Alam Gir. 

Aurangzib had considerable difficulty in securing his position by the suppression of rivals; but our interest now centres in the Deckan, where the Maratta people were organised into a new power by the redoubtable Sivaji. Though some of the Marattas claim Rajput descent, they are of low caste. They have none of the pride or dignity of the Rajput, and they care nothing for the point of honour; but they are active, hardy, persevering, and cunning. Sivaji was the son of a distinguished soldier named Shahji, in the service of the King of Bijapur. By various artifices young Sivaji brought a large area under his control. Then he revolted against Bijapur, posing as a Hindu leader. He wrung for himself a sort of independence from Bijapur. His proceedings attracted the attention of Aurangzib, who, however, did not immediately realise how dangerous the Maratta was to become. Himself occupied in other parts of the empire, Aurangzib left lieutenants to deal with Sivaji; and since he never trusted a lieutenant, the forces at their disposal were insufficient or were divided under commanders who were engaged as much in thwarting each other as in endeavouring to crush the common foe. Hence the vigorous Sivaji was enabled persistently to consolidate his organisation. 

At the same time Aurangzib was departing from the traditions of his house and acting as a bigoted champion of Islam; differentiating between his Mussulman subjects and the Hindus so as completely to destroy that national unity which it had been the aim of his predecessors to establish. The result was a Rajput revolt and the permanent alienation of the Rajputs from the Mogul Government. 

In spite of these difficulties Aurangzib renewed operations against Sivaji, to which the Maratta retorted by raiding expeditions in Hindustan; whereby he hoped to impress on the Mogul the advisability of leaving him alone; his object being to organise a great dominion in the Deckan--a dominion largely based on his championship of Hinduism as against Mahometanism. When Sivaji died, in 1680, his son Sambaji proved a much less competent successor; but the Maratta power was already established. Aurangzib directed his arms not so much against the Marattas as to the overthrow of the great kingdoms of the Deckan. When he turned against the Marattas, they met his operations by the adoption of guerrilla tactics, to which the Maratta country was eminently adapted. Most of Aurangzib's last years were occupied in these campaigns. The now aged emperor's industry and determination were indefatigable, but he was hopelessly hampered by his constitutional inability to trust in the most loyal of his servants. He had deposed his own father and lived in dread that his son Moazzim would treat him in the same fashion. He died in 1707 in the eighty-ninth year of his life and the fiftieth of his reign. In the eyes of Mahometans this fanatical Mahometan was the greatest of his house. But his rule, in fact, initiated the disintegration of the Mogul Empire. He had failed to consolidate the Mogul supremacy in the Deckan, and he had revived the old religious antagonism between Mahometans and Hindus. 

Prince Moazzim succeeded under the title of Bahadur Shah. Dissensions among the Marattas enabled him to leave the Deckan in comparative peace to the charge of Daud Khan. He hastened also to make peace with the Rajputs; but he was obliged to move against a new power which had arisen in the northwest, that of the Sikhs. Primarily a sort of reformed sect of the Hindus the Sikhs were converted by persecution into a sort of religious and military brotherhood under their Guru or prophet, Govind. They were too few to make head against the power of the empire, but they could only be scattered, not destroyed; and in later days were to assume a great prominence in Indian affairs. A detailed account of the incompetent successors of Bahadur Shah would be superfluous. The outstanding features of the period was the disintegration of the central Government and the development in the south of two powers; that of the Marattas and that of Asaf Jah, the successor of Daud Khan, and the first of the Nizams of the Deckan. The supremacy among the Marattas passed to the Peshwas, the Bramin Ministers of the successors of Sivaji, who established a dynasty very much like that of the Mayors of the Palace in the Frankish Kingdom of the Merovingians. But the final blow to the power of the Moguls was struck by the tremendous invasion of Nadir Shah the Persian, in 1739, when Delhi was sacked and its richest treasures carried away; though the Persian departed still leaving the emperor nominal Suzerian of India. Before twenty years were past the greatest of all revolutions in India affairs had taken place; and Robert Clive had made himself master of Bengal in the name of the British East India Company.

 

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