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.
Why the Mughal Empire Decined
● Weak Successors The Mughal empire was a personal despotism and its success depended upon a strong and capable monarch.
● Absence of Definite Law of Succession Continuous wars of succession (absence of law of primogeniture) fostered partisanship at the cost of patriotism.
● Aurangzeb’s Religious and Deccan Policies The religious policy antagonised the Rajputs, Sikhs, Jats and Marathas; Deccan policy kept the emperor away from the capital for a long duration.
Degeneration of Rulers and Nobles
Deterioration of Army
Too Vast an Empire The vast empire became a difficult task for weak rulers to administer efficiently.
● External Invasions Invasions of Irani and Durrani kingdoms (Nadir Shah, Ahmad Shah Abdali) gave a death-blow.
● Economic Decline Endless wars, stagnation in agriculture, and decline in trade and industry emptied the royal treasury.
● Advent of Europeans European companies interfered in native politics, hastening the disintegration of empire.
Shifting Allegiance of Zamindars. Jagirdari Crisis
Rise of Regional Aspirations Rise and establishment of Awadh, Bengal, Hyderabad, Mysore, Kerala, Rajput states and Jat states accelerated the process of disintegration.
Rise of Regional States
● Successor States Hyderabad (1724, Nizam-ul-Mulk), Bengal (1717, Murshid Quli Khan), and Awadh (1722, Saadat Khan Burhan-ul-Mulk).
● Independent States Mysore (under Haidar Ali), Kerala (King Martanda Varma), and Rajput States (Raja Sawai Singh of Amber).
● New States Marathas, Sikhs, Jats and Afghans.
● Stagnant and technologically backward agriculture, compensated by very hard labour of peasants.
● Peasants paid revenues to state, zamindars, jagirdars and revenue-farmers.
● Major produce/crops: rice, wheat, sugar, pepper, spices, cotton, etc.
Trade and Industry
Trade flourished. Cotton textiles, raw silk, silk fabrics, hardware, indigo, saltpetre, opium, rice, wheat, sugar, pepper, spices, precious stones, and drugs were exported. Gold, musk, woollen cloth, copper, iron, lead, paper, porcelain, pearls, dates, dried fruits, coffee, tea, ivory, rose
water, etc., were imported. The textile industry was famous for its produce. The ship-building industry flourished. The metal industry was also well developed.
● Elementary education imparted through pathshalas and maktabs.
● Chatuspathis or Tols among Hindus, and Madrasahs among Muslims were the institutes of higher learning.
● Absence of the study of science and technology and geography was a general feature.
● Apart from the four varnas, Hindus were divided into many sub-castes which differed in their nature from place to place.
● Muslims were also divided by considerations of caste, race, tribe, and status, even though their religion propagated equality.
Art, Architecture and Culture
● Asaf-ud-Daula, in 1784, built Bada Imambara at Lucknow.
● Sawai Jai Singh built pink-city of Jaipur and five astronomical observatories (Delhi, Jaipur, Mathura, Benares, Ujjain).
● Painting schools of Kangra and Rajputana came into prominence.
● In northern India, growth of Urdu language and poetry took place. Prominent Urdu poets were Mir, Sauda, Nazir, and Mirza Ghalib.
● Regional languages developed. Tamil language was enriched by Sittar poetry.