Lesson 4 of 47
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2. Mughal Empire & its Decline


The Mughal or Mogul empire was an early-modern empire that controlled much of South Asia between the 16th and 19th centuries. It is said to have been founded in 1526 by Babur on defeating Ibrahim Lodhi (the Sultan of Delhi) in the First Battle of Panipat. The Mughal imperial structure, however, is sometimes dated to 1600, to the rule of Akbar, Babur’s grandson. This imperial structure lasted until 1720, shortly after the death of the last major emperor, Aurangzeb, whose reign maximised the empire’s geographical extent. After the death of Aurangzeb, the Mughal Empire witnessed its downfall and its decline unfolded, giving way to new powers.


Name of EmperorReign Tenure Major Happenings

BABUR1526–1530Was a direct descendant of Genghis Khan through Timur and was the founder of the Mughal Empire after his victories at the Battle of Panipat (1526) and the Battle of Khanua. He however failed to consolidate his gains in India.

HUMAYUN1530–1540Son of Babur who served as his successor. His reign was interrupted by Sher Shah Suri who defeated him at Battle of Chausa in 1539 followed by Battle of Kanauj in 1540 thereby establishing the Suri Dynasty.


Halt to Mughal rule.

HUMAYUN1555–1556Restored rule was more unified and effective than the initial reign of 1530–1540. He was succeded by his son, Akbar.

1556–1605He alongwith Bairam Khan defeated Hemu at the Second Battle of Panipat and later won famous victories during the Siege of Chittorgarh and
Ranthambore. He established a new religion DIN-I-ILAHI and abolished Jizya tax imposed on Hindus. He followed policies of religious tolerance. One of his most famous construction marvels was the Lahore Fort.


Opened relations with the British East India Company.

SHAH JAHAN1627–1658

Under him, Mughal art and architecture reached their zenith.He constructed the Taj Mahal, Jama Masjid, Red Fort, Jahangir mausoleum, and Shalimar Garden. Died in the captivity of his son Aurangzeb.


He reinterpreted Islamic law and presented the Fatwa-e-Alamgiri. During Aurangzeb’s reign, the empire gained political strength once more and became the world’s most powerful economy. He spent the major part of his last 27 years in the war with the Maratha rebels and expanded the empire to its greatest extent.

BAHADUR SHAH I Muazzam/ShahAlam)1707–1712

The empire now steadily declined due to the lack of leadership qualities among his immediate successors.


An unpopular incompetent titular figurehead.


His reign marked the ascendancy of the manipulative Syed Brothers. He granted a Firman in 1717 to the English East India Company granting them duty-free trading rights for Bengal.


He succeeded Farrukh siyar.


Was Mughal emperor for a brief period in 1719.


Was a claimant to the throne of India.


Attempted to seize the throne at the behest of the Syed Brothers in order to depose emperor Muhammad Shah.

MUHAMMAD SHAH (also called Rangeela)1719–1720

Got rid of the Syed Brothers. Suffered
the invasion of Nadir-Shah of Persia in 1739.


His Minister Safdarjung was responsible for the Mughal Civil War.

ALAMGIR II1754–1759

He was murdered by a conspiracy.


He was overthrown after the Third Battle of Panipat by Prince Mirza Jawan Bakht.

SHAH ALAM II1759–1806

He is known to have fought against the British East India Company during the Battle of Buxar and reformed the Mughal Army under the command of Mirza Najaf Khan and is thus known as one of the last effective Mughal Emperors.

AKBAR SHAH II1806–1837

He designated Mir Fateh Ali Khan Talpur as the new Nawab of Sindh. Although he was under British protection his imperial name was removed from the official coinage after a brief dispute with the British East India Company.


He was the last Mughal Emperor. He was deposed by the British and exiled to Burma following the Indian Rebellion of 1857.

A rapid decline of the Mughal Empire began with Aurangzeb’s death. The decline of Mughals can be attributed to several causes and reasons that are noted below-

Downfall and Decline of the Mughal Empire

1. Weak successors post-Aurangzeb rule

  • Bahadur Shah I was very aged when he ascended the throne and lacked the zeal to perform state duties.
  • Rulers like Jahandar Shah, Muhammad Shah, Ahmad Shah etc were amongst other incompetent rulers.
  • This led to a decline of the Mughal Rule.

2. Continuous wars of succession

  • No law of succession was followed.
  • Internal strifes followed and hence the empire weakened.

3. Invasion of Nadir Shah and Ahmad Shah Abdali

  • Nadir Shah looted Kohinoor and these invasions proved to be a fatal blow to an otherwise established Mughal rule and gave way to its downfall.

4. Mughals neglected the Development of the Navy

  • Coast-line remained undefended.
  • This drawback was exploited by the Europeans.

5. Empty treasury

  • The resources of Mughals were already drained due to policies of Aurangzeb.
  • Disintegration of empire followed thereafter.

6. Aurangzeb’s faulty Deccan Campaign.

  • Aurangzeb exposed to incessant raiding districts in the Deccan in his conquest for expansion and greed for power.
  • Aurangzeb was unable to effectively assimilate the Maratha, Bedar, Gond etc. and this did not work in his favour.
  • Post his reign, The Mughal Empire was fragmented and its decline was most visible.

7. Degeneration of the Mughal Nobility

  • When the Mughals came to India, they were strong.
  • Too much of wealth and luxury made them lackadaisical.
  • Their harems became full and they had lot of wine for leisure.
  • They were no more a match for the strong Marathas, Rajputs, and Sikhs etc.

8. Lost support.

  • Bitter relations with Rajputs.
  • Even Jats, Sikhs, Marathas turned against them.
  • Huge disparity between rich and poor during 17th century and after.

9. Challenge from Regional Powers

  • Mughal Empire was too large but having weak successors proved dismal for it.
  • The provinces became independent and challenged the Mughals.
  • Independent states rose like Awadh, Hyderabad etc & chaallenged Mughal authority.

10. 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.

11. Rise of the Marathas

  • Marathas consolidated their position in Western India owing to their able leadership and mobility.
  • They started making plans for a greater Maharashtra empire.

12. Lack of control over the bankers of the state

  • In contrast to their earlier policies, the bankers extended trade and credit transactions to newcomers, e.g., the Dutch and the English.

13. Religious Policy of Aurangzeb

  • Aurangzeb alienated support of the Hindus by committing atrocities on them.
  • He imposed Jizya on the Hindus.

14. There was no good education

  • There was no practical training of the Mughal Mobility.
  • India lagged behind the world in the field of science and technology and the Mughal Ruling class remained blind to this development.
  • They therefore possessed no modern weapons too.

15. Widespread Corruption in the Administration

  • The nobles were short sighted.
  • Corruption and inefficiency entered almost all branches of the public service.


The decline of the Mughal Empire was due to social, economic, political and institutional factors. Aurangzeb was both a victim of circumstances and he also created certain circumstances of which he became a victim. With all of these happenings, the Mughal empire was fragmented and lost its existence.