Later Mughals

Decline of Mughals

  • The main outside force contributing to the destruction of the Mughal Empire was the Hindu Maratha Empire.
  • Chatrapati Shivaji declared “Hindu Swarajya” (Independence for Hindus) and raised an army that could outfight the larger Mughal armies.


  • Mountstart Elphinstone call this period a demolishing period for “Mussalmans” with many of them losing spirit to fight against the Maratha army.



  • In 1706, Aurangzeb died


  • Maratha Prime Minister Peshwa made deep inroads ravaging Mughal outposts in much of the Indian Subcontinent in the subsequent years.


  • After Aurangzeb’s death, Shivaji’s grandson Shahu was released by the Mughals, which brought some peace between the Marathas and Mughals. However, the Marathas continued to expand their Empire.


  • Peshwa Vishwanath Balaji Rao ravaged Mughal Deccan territory and forced the Mughal emperor to make “Chatrapati Shahu” the viceroy of Deccan.


  • It was, however,Vishwanath’s son Baji Rao I who is credited with overthrowing Mughal control from Deccan to the Punjab and from Bengal to Sindh; Sir Jadunath Sarka calls him the “Second Shivaji”.


  • Assuming the post of Peshwa at 19 years age, he started invading northern Mughal strongholds.
  • In 1728, he defeated Nizam in the Battle of Palkhed
  • 1729, defeated Muhammad Khan Bangash at Bundelakhand.
  • None of the Muslim generals were able to stop him, and by 1735, he had annexed Rajasthan and Bundelkhand.
  • In 1737, he invaded and plundered Delhi
  • Under Amir Khan Umrao Al Udat, he sent 8,000 troops to drive away the 5,000 Maratha cavalry soldiers. Baji Rao, however, easily routed the novice Mughal general and the rest of the imperial Mughal army


  • In 1737, in the final defeat of Mughal Empire, the commander-in-chief of the Mughal Army, Nizam-ul-mulk, was routed at Bhopal by the Maratha army. This essentially brought an end to the Mughal Empire.



For the next century the Mughal emperors had authority only over Delhi. In 1857, Emperor Bahadur Shah II—a mystic who led a renaissance in poetry—supported the Indian Rebellion of 1857. He was overthrown by the British, his sons killed, and the last remnant of the Mughal empire was absorbed into the British Raj.

Bahadur Shah I (1707 – 1712)

  • His original name was Qutb ud-Din Muhammad Mu’azzam later titled as Shah Alam by his father.
  • Muazzam, the third son of the emperor Aurangzeb through his low ranking wife, Nawab Bai
  • He was deputed governor of the northwest territories by Aurangzeb. His province included those parts of the Punjab where the Sikh faith was blossoming.
  • As governor, Muazzam relaxed the enforcement of Aurangzeb’s severe edicts including Jaziya, and an uneasy calm prevailed in the province for a brief time.
  • In fact, he maintained a friendly relationship with the last Sikh spiritual leader, Guru Gobind Singh. When Muazzam was challenging his brothers for the Mughal throne, Guru Gobind Singh provided military assistance to the liberal prince.
  • He was also the patron of the poet Jafar Zattalli.
  • He took the throne name Bahadur Shah in 1707.
  • he was an old man of 63 when he came to power
  • He made settlements with the Marathas, Pacified the Rajputs, and briefly became friendly with the Sikhs in the Punjab.
  • He was travelling throughout his reign and only came to rest in Lahore in the last few months of his life.
  • After Aurangzeb’s death, Muazzam Bahadur Shah took the throne. A war of succession began immediately after Aurangzeb died. One younger brother, Prince Azam Shah, proclaimed himself emperor and marched towards Delhi, where he unsuccessfully fought Bahadur Shah and died after a nominal reign of three months. Another brother, Muhammad Kam Bakhsh, was killed in 1709.


  • Tolerant Policies


  • Aurangzeb had imposed Sharia law within his kingdom with harsh enforcement of strict edicts. This led to increased militancy by many constituencies including the Marathas, the Sikhs and the Rajputs. Thus, rebellion was rife at the time of Aurangzeb’s death.
  • Bahadur Shah sought to improve relations with the militant constituencies of the massive empire. Bahadur Shah never abolished jizyah tax, but the effort to collect the tax became ineffectual.
  • Support to music was apparently renewed during his brief rule of five years. There was no destruction of temples in his reign.
  • During Bahadur Shah’s brief reign of 5 years, although the empire remained united, factionalism in the nobility reached a new height.
  • Bahadur Shah may be called the last successful emperor.
  • Moti Masjid, Mehrauli, built by Bahadur Shah I.
  • Bahadur Shah died on 27 February 1712 in Lahore while making alterations to the Shalimar Gardens. He was succeeded by his son Jahandar Shah. His grave lies, next to the dargah of 13th century, Sufi saint, Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki at Mehrauli, in a marble enclosure, along with that of Shah Alam II, and Akbar II.

Jahandar Shah (1712 – 1713)

  • Upon the death of their father on 27 February 1712, he and his brother Azim-ush-Shan both declared themselves emperor and conducted a struggle for the succession. Azim-us-Shan was killed on 17 March 1712 and Jahandar Shah was able to rule for a further eleven months.
  • Before coming to the throne, Jahandar Shah had sailed around the Indian ocean, and had been a very prosperous trader, and was later appointed Subedar of Sindh.
  • He was the father of three sons, including Aziz-ud-Din who reigned as Mughal emperor between 1754 and 1759.
  • Jahandar Shah, was very frivolous in lifestyle, addicted to pleasure
  • He chose a favorite wife, Lal Kunwar, before her elevation to the position of Queen Consort, she was a mere dancing girl.



  • He fled to Delhi, from where he was captured and handed over to the new Emperor, who confined him along with Lal Kunwar. He lived in confinement for a month, until 11 February 1713, when professional stranglers were sent to murder him.

Farrukhsiyar (1713 – 1719)


  • In the year 1716, Murshid Quli Khan, a very influential Mughal serviceman since the days of Aurangzeb emerged to become the first Nawab of Bengal, he had established a sophisticated taxation and administrative system, which was probably the best in the empire and contributed a hefty tribute of 10 million dams per year to the Mughal imperial court.
  • Farrukhsiyar, is also known to have sent a letter to the Ottomans which was received by the Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Sultan Ahmad III

Trade concessions

  • It was during Farrukhsiyar’s reign, in 1717, that the British East India Company purchased duty-free trading rights in all of Bengal for a mere three thousand rupees a year.
  • It is said that the Company’s surgeon, William Hamilton, cured Farrukhsiyar and the Emperor was moved to grant trading rights to the Company.

Coup against Farrukhsiyar


  • Farrukhsiyar met a humiliating and bloody end, his constant plotting eventually led the Sayyid Brothers to officially depose him as the Emperor. Farrukhsiyar was imprisoned and starved; later, on 28 February 1719, he was blinded with needles at the orders of the Sayyid Brothers.
  • Farrukhsiyar was strangled to death on the night of 27/28 April 1719. After accomplishing his assassination, the Sayyid Brothers placed his first-cousin, Rafi Ul-Darjat on the throne. Rafi-ud-durjat’s father and Farukhsiyar’s father had been brothers.

Rafi ud-Darajat

  • succeeded Furrukhsiyar on 28 February 1719, being proclaimed Badshah by the Syed Brothers. They wanted him to be a puppet ruler
  • The reign of Rafi Ul-Darjat was one of turbulence. On 18 May 1719, less than three months after his own accession, Rafi Ul-Darjat’s uncle, Nekusiyar, assumed the throne at the Agra Fort as he thought he was more eligible for the post.
  • Only three months after Nekusiyar’s enthronement, the fort surrendered and Nekusiyar was captured. He was respectfully received by the Amir Ul-Umara and confined at Salimgarh where he died in 1723.
  • His brother, Rafi ud-Daulah, was enthroned. Rafi Ul-Darjat died of Lung Cancer or was murdered at Agra, 13 June 1719 .
  • His remains were interred near the shrine of Sufi saint, Khawaja Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki, at Mehrauli in Delhi.

Shah Jahan II (1719)

  • Rafi- ud- Daulah (رفی الدولت) known as Shah Jahan II
  • He succeeded his short-lived brother Rafi Ul-Darjat in that year, being proclaimed Badshah by the Syed Brothers
  • The Syed Brothers then looted Agra and seized a large amount of wealth which once had been the personal possessions of Shah Jahan’s favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal.
  • Despite this, he was never allowed to venture out of the Red Fort.
  • A major event during his reign was the defeat of his uncle Neku Siyar in August 1719 and the recapture of Agra Fort.
  • Like his brother, he died of Lung Cancer or was murdered by Syed Brothers, 19 September 1719.

Muhammad Shah (1719 – 1748)

  • Muhammad Shah (1748–1702) also known as Roshan Akhtar
  • Ascending the throne at 17 with the help of the Sayyid Brothers, he later got rid of them with the help of Asaf Jah I
  • Muhammad Shah was a great patron of the arts, including musical, cultural and administrative developments, his pen-name was Sada Rangila (“ever joyous”).


  • In the year 1720, Syed Hussain Ali Khan Barha, the commander and chief of the most elite Mughal Army, was assassinated in his encampment in Toba Bhim on 9 October 1720.
  • The Mughal Emepror Muhammad Shah took direct command of his forces. Asaf Jah I was then dispatched to gain complete control of 6 Mughal provinces in the Deccan, and Muhammad Amin Khan Turani was assigned as the Mansabdar of 8000.
  • The fall of the Sayyid Brothers marked the beginning of the end of the Mughal Empire‘s direct control over its dominions in the Deccan.



  • During this time the Mughal-Maratha Wars (1728–1763) would cause irreparable devastation to the inhabitants of the ill-administered Mughal Empire.
  • In Punjab region the Sikhs were at war with Mughal Subedars, the Sikhs had formed bands of warriors whose hit-and-run tactics caused devastation to the Punjab (region).
  • In Ajmer, Ajit Singh carved out a vast territory and allied himself with the renegade Marathas. While in Deccan the Marathas had ruined Mughal fortifications and were already on the warpath. All this greatly contributed to the decline of the Mughal Empire.
  • Rise of rebellion within the empire




  • Urdu language had already been invented before Muhammad Shah’s reign. However, during his reign it became a common language among the people and the Emperor installed it as Court language. But many writers say it was British who made Urdu the Official Language and that Urdu was never court language during Mughal Rule.
  • During the Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah’s reign Qawwali was reintroduced into the Mughal imperial court and it quickly spread throughout South Asia faster than ever before, incorporating many newly patronized instruments such as Sarod, Surbahar, Sitar and Sursingar that bolstered the traditional Tambura, Veena and Tabla.
  • Muhammad Shah is also known to have introduced religious institutions for education such as Maktabs.
  • During his reign, the Quran was translated for the first time in simple Persian and Urdu.
  • Also, during his reign, the formal Turkic dress, normally worn by the high Mughal nobility since Mughals originally hailed from Samarqand, was replaced by the Sherwani.
  • It is said that Mohammad Shah promoted arts like Dance and Music with great passion, almost at the cost of administrative priorities, paving the way for the disintegration of governance.
  • The emperor was a discerning patron of the arts, employing master artists such as Nidha Mal (active 1735–75) and Chitarman, whose vivacious paintings depict scenes of court life, such as Holi celebrations, hunting and hawking.
  • The Mughal court of the time had musicians such as Niyamat Khan, also known as Sadarang, and his nephew Firoz Khan (Adarang), whose compositions popularized the musical form of Khyal and Tappa. This key component of Indian classical music evolved, ascended and received princely patronage at the court of Muhammad Shah.

Later Mughal-Maratha Wars

  • After Asaf Jah I left Delhi, the Marathas had already expanded up to river Narmada.
  • Therefore early in 1723 they invaded the rich province of Malwa and by winter of the same year, they reached Ujjain, the capital of Malwa.
  • In 1725, the governorship of Gujarat was transferred to Sarbuland Khan.
  • Enraged by the authority of the Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah the Marathas invaded Gujarat but were routed by Sarbuland Khan and his forces. This was mainly because most of the Maratha forces, including their leader Baji Rao I, were at the time fighting the Asaf Jah I in Hyderabad. The war with Hyderabad, however, proceeded favourably for the Marathas.
  • In 1728, during February, the Asaf Jah I was decisively defeated at the Battle of Palkhed.
  • In the year 1737 the Maratha chieftain Baji Rao I attacked the Mughal imperial capitol at Delhi and defeated a well trained Mughal Army


  • 1739 Nadir Shah’s invasion emboldened the Sikhs and the Marathas, this invasion destroyed what was left of the Mughal Empire and neared it to its end.
  • The weakness of the Mughal Army was clearly elaborated after this invasion.
  • The Mughals were completely looted of their wealth, and rebellions and disloyalty became commonplace.
  • Emperor Muhammad Shah had four wives, but his most favourite and his chief consort was Badshah Begum, a Mughal princess and daughter of Emperor Farrukhsiyar. He married her on 8 December 1721 at Delhi, and gave her the title Malika-uz-Zamani (Queen of the Era).
  • The victory of the Mughal Army during the Battle of Manipur came with a heavy price the Grand Vizier Qamar-ud-Din Khan Bahadur fell in battle after being struck by a stray artillery shell on the battlefield. Initially this was kept a secret. However, when the news reached the Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah, he could not speak, suddenly became sick and did not come out of his apartments for three days. During this course he fasted. His guards could hear him crying out loud and saying: “How could I bring about anyone as faithful as he Qamar-ud-Din”. He died due to grief on 26 April 1748, his funeral was attended by visiting Imams from Mecca.

Ahmad Shah Bahadur (1748 – )

  • He succeeded his father to the throne in the year 1748 at the age of 22
  • During the reign of his father the city of Delhi (the Mughal capital) had been plundered and much of northern India had been ransacked by the invading army of Nadir Shah, southern India was marred by the Later Mughal-Maratha Wars between Maratha confederates and the loyalists of the Mughal Emperor
  • After the Battle of Delhi (1737), the former empire had no territory left other than the region of Delhi itself.
  • As a young Prince Ahmad developed a weakness for women, though this was restricted under his father’s supervision. Prince Ahmad is also known to have been an illiterate and never took part in military training.
  • he was strongly supported by his mother Qudsiyya Begum, who began to manipulate

Emergence of Ahmad Shah Bahadur




  • The court was divided into factions, irani turani and afgani
  • After the Mughal Grand Vizier Safdarjung survived an assassination attempt in the year 1749, due to his response tensions erupted in the Mughal imperial court when he tried to de-legitimize any relatives of his predeceasing Grand Viziers he also tried to drive out all the members of the imperial Afghan Faction from positions of authority.
  • These policies brought Safdarjung in conflict with the principal members of the Turani Faction and particularly Javed Khan.


  • Ahmad Shah Bahadur then chose the eighteen-year-old Imad-ul-Mulk son of the deceased Intizam-ud-Daula to counter the growing influence of Safdarjung in May 1753. Imad-ul-Mulk gathered the opposition to Safdarjung and further whipped up ShiaSunni and Afghan-Irani-Turani differences among the Muslim populace in the Mughal Empire. Safdarjung was defeated but due to his supporters such as Salabat Khan Bahadur, he forgiven and thus withdrew to Awadh.
  • Imad-ul-Mulk then emerged as the new Grand Vizier of the Mughal Empire his prowess was feared by Ahmad Shah Bahadur, who soon became estranged from him after Imad-ul-Mulk collected 1,500,000 dams and refused to pay salaries to the Mughal imperial army of 80,000 and Mughal imperial officials who demanded 32 months payment.
  • When Ahmad Shah Bahadur tried to have young Imad-ul-Mulk removed from the imperial court, the outcast sent Aqibat Mahmud to arrest the Emperor and then sought an alliance with the Maratha chieftain Sadashivrao Bhau. Together they deposed Ahmad Shah Bahadur after the Battle of Sikandarabad in the year 1754.

Jat rebellion, 1754

  • Safdarjung fled to Awadh, while a Mughal general laid siege to Bhurtpore where Suraj Mal and his Jat rebels had controlled. After being reinstated as the Grand Vizier, Imad-ul-Mulk moved out of Delhi to support his lieutenant with a fresh supply of ammunition.
  • Imad-ul-Mulk, aided by the Marathas, defeated Safdar Jung. At this the Emperor collected a large army and camped at Sikandarabad. On the other hand, Imad-ul-Mulk and his Maratha allies routed Imperial Mughal Army of the Mughal Emperor Ahmad Shah Bahadur at the Battle of Sikandarabad.
  • The Emperor left his wives and a retinue of 8,000 women behind and fled to Delhi. Imad-ul-Mulk also reached Delhi and arrested the Emperor and his mother. On 25 June 1754, he had Ahmad Shah Bahadur’s eyes gouged out.


  • After his deposition, Ahmad Shah Bahadur was imprisoned at the Salimgarh Fort. He stayed there for the rest of his life and finally died in 1775 at the age of 50 during the reign of Emperor Shah Alam II. One of his sons, Bidar Bakhsh reigned briefly in 1788.


Alamgir II (1754 – 1759)

  • Aziz-ud-din Alamgir II was the son of Jahandar Shah.
  • raised to the throne by Imad-ul-Mulk after he deposed Ahmad Shah Bahadur in 1754.
  • On ascending the throne, he took the title of Alamgir and tried to follow the approach of Aurangzeb Alamgir.
  • At the time of his accession to throne he was an old man of 55 years. He had no experience of administration and warfare as he had spent most of his life in jail.
  • He was a weak ruler, with all powers vested in the hand of his Wazir, Imad-ul-Mulk.
  • In 1756, Ahmad Shah Abdali invaded India once again and captured Delhi and plundered Mathura.
  • Marathas became more powerful because of their collaboration with Imad-ul-Mulk, and dominated the whole of northern India. This was the peak of Maratha expansion, which caused great trouble for the Mughal Empire, already weak with no strong ruler.
  • The relations between Alamgir II and the usurping Vizier, Imad-ul-Mulk, by this time had gotten worse.
  • Alamgir II was murdered by Imad-ul-Mulk
  • Shah Jahan III was placed on the throne.


  • The Vizier Imad-ul-Mulk was clearly a man of no principles and was commonly criticized for his extreme selfishness. He put all the imperial revenues into his own pocket and starved the Alamgir II’s family. He persecuted Ali Gauhar, the elder son of the Mughal Emperor Alamgir II.
  • Since then the relations between Alamgir II and Imad-ul-Mulk‘s regime were not satisfactory and the latter got him assassinated in November 1759.


  • Alamgir II grieved the death of Alivardi Khan the famous Nawab of Bengal, who annually pledged 5 million dams to the imperial court. His successor Siraj-ud-Daula was recognized as the next Nawab of Bengal, but he faced internal rivals who refused to consider the Firman granted by Alamgir II to Siraj-ud-Daula.
  • These internal conflicts would lead Siraj-ud-Daula to hastily annex Calcutta from the English East India Company, without the permission of the Mughal Emperor Alamgir II and Salabat Jung. Siraj-ud-Daula was quickly defeated by Clive who recaptured Calcutta and defeated Siraj-ud-Daula during the Battle of Plassey in the year 1757.
  • After the annihilation of his entire army Siraj-ud-Daula fled and was killed by the forces of the treacherous Mir Jafar. The deceased Siraj-ud-Daula’s pretensions were criticized in the Mughal imperial court by Ghulam Husain Tabatabai, and Alamgir II refused to recognize Mir Jafar as the next Nawab of Bengal. In response to the imperial court’s decision Mir Jafar thus consolidated and alliance with the manipulative Imad-ul-Mulk against he imperial family.


Shah Alam II

  • Shah Alam II also known as Ali Gauhar
  • son of the murdered Alamgir II
  • successfully defended the throne from the traitorous Imad-ul-Mulk, who appointed Shah Jahan III as the emperor.
  • Later, he was nominated as the emperor by Ahmad Shah Durrani after the Third Battle of Panipat.
  • Shah Alam II was considered the only and rightful emperor, but he wasn’t able to return to Delhi until 1772.
  • He is known to have fought against the British East India Company during the Battle of Buxar
  • Shah Alam II also authored his own Diwan of poems and was known by the pen-name Aftab.
  • Nawab Majad-ud-Daula was followed by a known enemy of the Mughals, the grandson of Najib Khan, Ghulam Qadir, with his Sikh allies forced Shah Alam II to appoint him as the Grand Vizier of the Mughal Empire. Petty, avaricious and insane Ghulam Qadir ravaged the palaces in search of the Mughal treasure believed to be worth Rs 250 million. Unable to locate even a fraction of that sum and angered by the Mughal Emperor’s attempts to eliminate him and his Sikh allies, Ghulam Qadir himself blinded Shah Alam II on 10 August 1788.
  • His power was so depleted by the end of his reign that it led to a saying ‘The kingdom of Shah Alam is from Delhi to Palam’. Palam is a suburb of Delhi.
  • His grave lies, next to the dargah of 13th century, Sufi saint, Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki at Mehrauli, Delhi in a marble enclosure, along with that of Bahadur Shah I (also known as Shah Alam I), and Akbar Shah II.


Akbar Shah II (1806 – 1837)

  • He was the second son of Shah Alam II and the father of Bahadur Shah Zafar II.
  • Akbar had little real power due to the increasing British control of India through the East India Company.
  • Shortly before his death, he sent Ram Mohan Roy as an ambassador to Britain and gave him title of Raja
  • During his regime, in 1835, the East India Company (EIC) discontinued calling itself the lieutenant of the Mughal Emperor and issuing coins in his name. The Persian lines in the Company’s coins to this effect were deleted.
  • His grave lies, next to the dargah of 13th century, Sufi saint, Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki at Mehrauli, in a marble enclosure, along with that of Bahadur Shah I (also known as Shah Alam I) and Shah Alam II.
  • When the renegade eunuch Ghulam Qadir captured Delhi, the young Prince Mirza Akbar was forced to nautch dance together along with other Mughal princes and princesses. He witnessed how the members of the imperial Mughal family were humiliated, as well as starved. When Jahan Shah IV fled, Mirza Akbar was titular Emperor with the title of Akbar Shah II, and was to remain acting emperor even after the reinstation of his father Shah Alam II, till December 1788.


  • Emperor Akbar Shah II presided over an empire titularly large but in effect limited to the Red Fort in Delhi alone. The cultural life of Delhi as a whole flourished during his reign. However, his attitude towards East India Company officials, especially Lord Hastings, to whom he refused to grant an audience on terms other than those of subject and sovereign, although honourable to him, increasingly frustrated the British, who regarded him as merely their pensioner. The British therefore reduced his titular authority to ‘King of Delhi’ in 1835 and the East India Company ceased to act as the mere lieutenants of the Mughal Empire as they did from 1803 to 1835. Simultaneously they replaced Persian text with English text on the company’s coins, which no longer carried the emperor’s name.


  • The British encouraged the Nawab of Oudh and the Nizam of Hyderabad to take royal titles in order to further diminish the Emperor’s status and influence. Out of deference, the Nizam did not, but the Nawab of Awadh did so.

Bahadur Shah II

  • the last Mughal emperor and a member of the Timurid Dynasty
  • Zafar was the son of Mirza Akbar Shah II and Lalbai, who was a Hindu Rajput
  • He used Zafar as an Urdu poet, and he wrote many Urdu ghazals under it
  • After his involvement in the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the British tried and then exiled him from Delhi and sent him to Rangoon in then-British-controlled Desi.
  • Bahadur Shah Zafar presided over a Mughal empire that barely extended beyond Delhi‘s Red Fort. The East India Company was the dominant political and military power in mid-nineteenth century India. Outside Company controlled India, hundreds of kingdoms and principalities, from the large to the small, fragmented the land. The emperor in Delhi was paid some respect by the Company and allowed a pension, the authority to collect some taxes, and to maintain a small military force in Delhi, but he posed no threat to any power in India. Bahadur Shah himself did not take an interest in statecraft or possess any imperial ambitions. After the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the British exiled him from Delhi.


  • Bahadur Shah Zafar was a noted Urdu poet, and wrote a large number of Urdu ghazals.

Closely woven into the history of the last remains of Mughal rule is the history of Zafar Mahal in Mehrauli, a locality of Delhi. Zafar Mahal was originally built by Akbar II, but it was his son, Bahadur Shah Zafar, who constructed the gateway and added to the palace in the mid-nineteenth century. Mehrauli was then a popular venue for hunting parties, picnics and jaunts far away from Delhi, and the dargah was an added attraction.

The balcony, with its ‘jharokha’ windows, is where the emperor and his family could look out over the road. In Bahadurshah’s time, the main Mehrauli-Gurgaon road passed in front of Zafar Mahal, and all passersby were expected to dismount as a sign of respect for the emperor. When the British refused to comply, Bahadurshah solved the problem creatively – he bought the surrounding land and diverted the road so that it would pass well away from Zafar Mahal!

The Phool Walon Ki Sair gradually turned into a major three day celebration during the time when Bahadur Shah Zafar, son and successor to Akbar Shah Saani ruled from Delhi.

The celebrations spread out in different parts of Mehrauli with the Jahaz Mahal, (a Lodhi period structure, that was once in the middle of the Hauz-e-Shamsi but is now at one end of the much depleted Hauz, becoming a center where Qawwali mehfils would be organised while the Jharna, built by Firoz Shah Tughlaq and later added to by Akbar Shah II became a place where the women of the court relaxed.

As the Indian rebellion of 1857 spread, Sepoy regiments seized Delhi. Seeking a figure that could unite all Indians, Hindu and Muslim alike, most rebelling Indian kings and the Indian regiments accepted Zafar as the Emperor of India., under whom the smaller Indian kingdoms would unite until the British were defeated. Zafar was the least threatening and least ambitious of monarchs, and the legacy of the Mughal Empire was more acceptable a uniting force to most allied kings than the domination of any other Indian kingdom.

When the victory of the British became certain, Bahadur Shah took refuge at Humayun’s Tomb, in an area that was then at the outskirts of Delhi, and hid there. Company forces led by Major William Hodson surrounded the tomb and compelled his surrender on 20 September 1857. The next day Hodson shot his sons Mirza Mughal, Mirza Khizr Sultan, and grandson Mirza Abu Bakr under his own authority at the Khooni Darwaza (the bloody gate) near Delhi Gate. On hearing the news Bahadur Shah reacted with shocked silence while his wife Zeenat Mahal was content as she believed her son was now Bahadur Shah’s heir.


Many male members of his family were killed by Company forces, who imprisoned or exiled the surviving members of the Mughal dynasty. Bahadur Shah was tried on four counts, two of aiding rebels, one of treason, and being party to the murder of 49 people,[13] and after a forty day trial found guilty on all charges. Respecting Hodson‘s guarantee on his surrender Bahadur Shah was not sentenced but exiled to Rangoon, Burma in 1858. He was accompanied into exile by his wife Zeenat Mahal and some of the remaining members of the family. His departure as Emperor marked the end of more than three centuries of Mughal rule in India.

Death and burial

Bahadur Shah died in exile on 7 November 1862 in Rangoon, (now Yangon). He was buried in Yangon‘s Dagon Township near the Shwedagon Pagoda, at the site that later became known as Bahadur Shah Zafar Dargah.

January 2, 2018

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