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India on the Eve of British Conquest

India on the Eve of British Conquest

India on the Eve of British Conquest :- The first half of the eighteenth century saw the decline of the mighty Mughals, who had been the envy of their contemporaries for almost two centuries. The reign of Aurangzeb (1658-1707) proved to signify the beginning of the end of Mughal rule in India. It is argued that Aurangzeb’s misguided policies weakened the stability of the state and the decline gained momentum after his death due to wars
of succession and weak rulers. Though Muhammad Shah ruled for a long spell of 29 years (1719-48), a revival of the imperial fortunes did not take place as he was an incompetent ruler.

Note :- This post will be available in Hindi soon

India on the Eve of British Conquest

Muhammad Shah’s reign witnessed the establishment of the independent states of Hyderabad, Bengal, Awadh and Punjab. Several local chiefs began to assert their independence and the Marathas began to make their bid to inherit the imperial mantle.

Challenges before the Mughals

External Challenges

In the absence of internal strength, the Mughals could not put a tough front against external challenges which came in the form of several invasions from the north-west. The north-western borders had been neglected by the later Mughals and not much effort was expended in protecting the border.

Nader Shah was Mughal emperor for only fifty-seven days, in 1739, but those days created aftershocks that transformed India’s politics. They broke existing centres of authority, massively shrinking the scope of Mughal power. They set loose bands of mounted warriors who ransacked the countryside seeking wealth from villages and towns. They pushed traders behind the walls of whichever power had the strongest forts. For a short period plunder, rather than negotiation, became the most effective tool for creating new centres of wealth. Those fifty-seven days laid the ground which allowed the East India Company to conquer territory in India for the first time.
                                               —Jon Wilson, India Conquered

Nadir Shah, the Persian emperor, attacked India in 1738-39, conquered Lahore and defeated the Mughal arm at Karnal on February 13, 1739. Later, Muhammad Shah was captured, and Delhi looted and devastated. According to an estimate, apart from the Peacock Throne and the Kohinoor diamond, seventy crore rupees were collected from the official treasury and the safes of the rich nobles. Nadir Shah gained the strategically important Mughal territory to the west of the Indus including Kabul. Thus, India once again became vulnerable to the attacks from the north-west.

Ahmad Shah Abdali (or Ahmad Shah Durrani), who was elected the successor of Nadir Shah after the latter’s death in 1747, invaded India several times between 1748 and 1767. He continuously harassed the Mughals who tried to buy peace in 1751-52 by ceding Punjab to him. In 1757, Abdali captured Delhi and left behind an Afghan caretaker to watch over the Mughal emperor. Before his return, Abdali had recognised Alamgir II as the Mughal emperor and the Rohilla chief, Najib-ud-Daula, as Mir Bakhshi of the empire, who was to act as personal ‘supreme agent’ of Abdali. In 1758, Najib-ud-Daula was expelled from Delhi by the Maratha chief, Raghunath Rao, who also captured Punjab. In
1759, Ahmad Shah Abdali returned to India to take revenge on the Marathas. In 1761, Abdali defeated the Marathas in the Third Battle of Panipat. The last of Abdali’s invasions came in 1767.

Why Many Empire-shaking Battles at Panipat?

  • Panipat and its adjacent region, located in present Haryana on the banks of the Yamuna and between the fertile plains of the Ganga and Indus rivers, have witnessed several battles. These battles changed the course of Indian history at different points of time.
  • The first Battle of Panipat in 1526 was between Babur and Ibrahim Lodi. The result of the battle laid the foundation of the Mughal Empire by ending the rule of the Delhi Sultanate.
  • The Second Battle of Panipat in 1556 was between Akbar and Hemu; it decided in favour of the continuation of the Mughal rule.
    The Third Battle of Panipat in 1761 between the Marathas and Ahmad Shah Abdali put an end to the Maratha ambition of ruling over India.

Why Panipat was a favourite battle field

  • Panipat had a strategic location. One of the parties of the war generally came from the north/northwest through the Khyber Pass to get hold over Delhi, the political capital of northern India. To move a military through rough terrains—deserts of Rajasthan or the other northern areas infested with dense forests—was very risky and difficult. On the other hand, the rulers at Delhi considered Panipat as a confrontable strategic ground and hence they preferred to take the fight there.
  • Its proximity to Delhi made it easier for the Indian rulers to transport weapons, military and food supplies etc., to the battleground, and still keep the capital insulated from the conflict at hand. Panipat’s surrounding region has a flat ground which was suitable for cavalry movement—the main mode of warfare at the time.
  • After the construction of the Grand Trunk Road by Sher Shah Suri (1540-45), Panipat was on this route. It became easier for conquerors to find their way there.
  • The duration of monsoon rainfall in the region is short in comparison to other areas making it easier to fight.
  • The artisans/smiths of these regions were experts in making warfare-related materials and hence it became easier for forces of both parties to replenish their war materials.
Vishal Singh

Vishal Singh

“Hi, I am Vishal Singh. I completed my Graduations in Physics in 2020 at VKSU, Arrah. Now I'm Preparing For Civil Service Exams. I'm Interested Physics as well as History, Polity, Geography, Technology & Science.

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