Old NCERT Textbook (Satish Chandra): India in the First Half of the Seventeenth Century Notes | Study History for UPSC CSE - UPSC

UPSC: Old NCERT Textbook (Satish Chandra): India in the First Half of the Seventeenth Century Notes | Study History for UPSC CSE - UPSC

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 Page 1


FIFTEEN
India in the First Half of the
Seventeenth Century
POLITICAL AND ADMINISTRATIVE DEVELOPMENTS IN INDIA
The first half of the seventeenth century in India was, on the whole, an era of
progress and growth. During the period, the Mughal empire was ruled by two
capable rulers, Jahangir (1605–27), and Shah Jahan (1628–1658). In southern
India, too, as we have seen, the states of Bijapur and Golconda were able to
provide conditions of internal peace and cultural growth. The Mughal rulers
consolidated the administrative system which had developed under Akbar.
They maintained the alliance with the Rajputs, and tried to further broaden
the political base of the empire by allying with powerful sections such as the
Afghans and the Marathas. They embellished their capitals with beautiful
buildings, many of them in marble, and tried to make the Mughal court the
centre of the cultural life in the country. The Mughals played a positive role in
stabilising India's relations with neighbouring Asian powers such as Iran, the
Uzbeks, and the Ottoman Turks, thereby opening up greater avenues for
India’s foreign trade. Trade concessions given to various European trading
companies were also aimed at promoting India’s foreign trade. But a number
of negative features came to the surface during the period. The growing
prosperity of the ruling classes did not filter down to peasants and workers
whose lives remained hard and miserable. The Mughal ruling class remained
oblivious of the growth of science and technology in the West. The problem
of succession to the throne created instability, thus posing a threat to the
political system as well as to economic and cultural growth.
Jahangir, the eldest son of Akbar, succeeded to the throne without any
difficulty, his younger brothers having died during the life-time of Akbar due
to excessive drinking. However, shortly after Jahangir’s succession, his eldest
son, Khusrau, broke out into rebellion. Tussle between father and son for the
Page 2


FIFTEEN
India in the First Half of the
Seventeenth Century
POLITICAL AND ADMINISTRATIVE DEVELOPMENTS IN INDIA
The first half of the seventeenth century in India was, on the whole, an era of
progress and growth. During the period, the Mughal empire was ruled by two
capable rulers, Jahangir (1605–27), and Shah Jahan (1628–1658). In southern
India, too, as we have seen, the states of Bijapur and Golconda were able to
provide conditions of internal peace and cultural growth. The Mughal rulers
consolidated the administrative system which had developed under Akbar.
They maintained the alliance with the Rajputs, and tried to further broaden
the political base of the empire by allying with powerful sections such as the
Afghans and the Marathas. They embellished their capitals with beautiful
buildings, many of them in marble, and tried to make the Mughal court the
centre of the cultural life in the country. The Mughals played a positive role in
stabilising India's relations with neighbouring Asian powers such as Iran, the
Uzbeks, and the Ottoman Turks, thereby opening up greater avenues for
India’s foreign trade. Trade concessions given to various European trading
companies were also aimed at promoting India’s foreign trade. But a number
of negative features came to the surface during the period. The growing
prosperity of the ruling classes did not filter down to peasants and workers
whose lives remained hard and miserable. The Mughal ruling class remained
oblivious of the growth of science and technology in the West. The problem
of succession to the throne created instability, thus posing a threat to the
political system as well as to economic and cultural growth.
Jahangir, the eldest son of Akbar, succeeded to the throne without any
difficulty, his younger brothers having died during the life-time of Akbar due
to excessive drinking. However, shortly after Jahangir’s succession, his eldest
son, Khusrau, broke out into rebellion. Tussle between father and son for the
throne was not unusual in those time. Jahangir himself had rebelled against
his father, and kept the empire disturbed for some time. However, Khusrau’s
rebellion proved to be short-lived. Jahangir defeated him at a battle near
Lahore and soon afterwards he was captured and imprisoned.
We have already seen how Jahangir brought to an end the conflict with
Mewar which had continued for four decades, and the struggle in the Deccan
with Malik Ambar who was not prepared to accept the settlement made by
Akbar. There was conflict in the east, too. Although Akbar had broken the
back of the power of the Afghans in this region. Afghan chiefs were still
powerful in various parts of east Bengal. They had the support of many
Hindu rajas of the region, such as the rajas of Jessore, Kamrup (western
Assam), Cachar, etc. Towards the end of his reign, Akbar had recalled Raja
Man Singh, the governor of Bengal, to the court, and during his absence the
Afghan chief, Usman Khan, and others found an opportunity to raise a
rebellion. Jahangir sent back Man Singh for some time but the situation
continued to worsen. In 1608, Jahangir posted to Bengal, Islam Khan, the
grandson of Shaikh Salim Chishti, the famous Sufi saint who was the patron
saint of the Mughals. Though young in years, Islam Khan handled the
situation with great energy and foresight. He won over many of the
zamindars including the Raja of Jessore to his side, and fixed his headquarters
at Dacca, which was strategically located, to deal with the rebels. To keep the
area under full control, soon the provincial capital was transferred from
Rajmahal to Dacca which began to develop rapidly. Islam Khan first directed
his efforts to the conquest of Sonargaon which was under the control of Musa
Khan and his confederates who were called the Barah (twelve) Bhuiyan. After
three years of campaigning, Sonargaon was captured. Soon afterwards, Musa
Khan surrendered and he was sent to the court as a prisoner. Usman Khan’s
turn came next, and he was defeated in a fierce battle. The back of the Afghan
resistance was now broken and the other rebels soon surrendered. The
principalities of Jessore and Kamrup were annexed. Thus Mughal power was
firmly entrenched in east Bengal.
Like Akbar, Jahangir realised that conquest would be lasting on the basis
not of force but of securing the goodwill of the people. He, therefore, treated
the defeated Afghan chiefs and their followers with consideration and
sympathy. After some time, many of the princes and zamindars of Bengal
Page 3


FIFTEEN
India in the First Half of the
Seventeenth Century
POLITICAL AND ADMINISTRATIVE DEVELOPMENTS IN INDIA
The first half of the seventeenth century in India was, on the whole, an era of
progress and growth. During the period, the Mughal empire was ruled by two
capable rulers, Jahangir (1605–27), and Shah Jahan (1628–1658). In southern
India, too, as we have seen, the states of Bijapur and Golconda were able to
provide conditions of internal peace and cultural growth. The Mughal rulers
consolidated the administrative system which had developed under Akbar.
They maintained the alliance with the Rajputs, and tried to further broaden
the political base of the empire by allying with powerful sections such as the
Afghans and the Marathas. They embellished their capitals with beautiful
buildings, many of them in marble, and tried to make the Mughal court the
centre of the cultural life in the country. The Mughals played a positive role in
stabilising India's relations with neighbouring Asian powers such as Iran, the
Uzbeks, and the Ottoman Turks, thereby opening up greater avenues for
India’s foreign trade. Trade concessions given to various European trading
companies were also aimed at promoting India’s foreign trade. But a number
of negative features came to the surface during the period. The growing
prosperity of the ruling classes did not filter down to peasants and workers
whose lives remained hard and miserable. The Mughal ruling class remained
oblivious of the growth of science and technology in the West. The problem
of succession to the throne created instability, thus posing a threat to the
political system as well as to economic and cultural growth.
Jahangir, the eldest son of Akbar, succeeded to the throne without any
difficulty, his younger brothers having died during the life-time of Akbar due
to excessive drinking. However, shortly after Jahangir’s succession, his eldest
son, Khusrau, broke out into rebellion. Tussle between father and son for the
throne was not unusual in those time. Jahangir himself had rebelled against
his father, and kept the empire disturbed for some time. However, Khusrau’s
rebellion proved to be short-lived. Jahangir defeated him at a battle near
Lahore and soon afterwards he was captured and imprisoned.
We have already seen how Jahangir brought to an end the conflict with
Mewar which had continued for four decades, and the struggle in the Deccan
with Malik Ambar who was not prepared to accept the settlement made by
Akbar. There was conflict in the east, too. Although Akbar had broken the
back of the power of the Afghans in this region. Afghan chiefs were still
powerful in various parts of east Bengal. They had the support of many
Hindu rajas of the region, such as the rajas of Jessore, Kamrup (western
Assam), Cachar, etc. Towards the end of his reign, Akbar had recalled Raja
Man Singh, the governor of Bengal, to the court, and during his absence the
Afghan chief, Usman Khan, and others found an opportunity to raise a
rebellion. Jahangir sent back Man Singh for some time but the situation
continued to worsen. In 1608, Jahangir posted to Bengal, Islam Khan, the
grandson of Shaikh Salim Chishti, the famous Sufi saint who was the patron
saint of the Mughals. Though young in years, Islam Khan handled the
situation with great energy and foresight. He won over many of the
zamindars including the Raja of Jessore to his side, and fixed his headquarters
at Dacca, which was strategically located, to deal with the rebels. To keep the
area under full control, soon the provincial capital was transferred from
Rajmahal to Dacca which began to develop rapidly. Islam Khan first directed
his efforts to the conquest of Sonargaon which was under the control of Musa
Khan and his confederates who were called the Barah (twelve) Bhuiyan. After
three years of campaigning, Sonargaon was captured. Soon afterwards, Musa
Khan surrendered and he was sent to the court as a prisoner. Usman Khan’s
turn came next, and he was defeated in a fierce battle. The back of the Afghan
resistance was now broken and the other rebels soon surrendered. The
principalities of Jessore and Kamrup were annexed. Thus Mughal power was
firmly entrenched in east Bengal.
Like Akbar, Jahangir realised that conquest would be lasting on the basis
not of force but of securing the goodwill of the people. He, therefore, treated
the defeated Afghan chiefs and their followers with consideration and
sympathy. After some time, many of the princes and zamindars of Bengal
detained at the court were released and allowed to return to Bengal. Even
Musa Khan was released and his estates restored. Thus after a long spell,
peace and prosperity returned to Bengal. To cap the process, more Afghans
now began to be inducted into the Mughal nobility. The leading Afghan
noble under Jahangir was Khan-i-Jahan Lodi who rendered distinguished
service in the Deccan.
By 1622, Jahangir had brought Malik Ambar to heel, patched up the long
drawn out tussle with Mewar, and pacified Bengal. Jahangir was still fairly
young (51), and a long era of peace seemed to be ahead. But the situation was
changed radically by two developments—the Persian conquest of Qandhar
which was a blow to Mughal prestige, and the growing failure of Jahangir’s
health which unleashed the latent struggle for succession among the princes,
and led to jockeying for power by the nobles. These developments pitch-
forked Nur Jahan into the political arena.
NUR JAHAN
The story of Nur Jahan’s life, her first marriage with an Iranian, Sher Afgan,
and his death in a clash with the Mughal governor of Bengal, Nur Jahan’s stay
in Agra with an elderly relation of Jahangir, and her marriage with Jahangir
four years later (1611) are too well known to be repeated in detail here. Sober
historians do not believe that Jahangir was responsible for the death of her
first husband. Jahangir’s chance meeting with her in the Meena Bazar and
marrying her was not so unusual. Her family was a respectable one, and her
father, Itimaduddaula, had been made joint diwan by Jahangir in the first year
of his reign. After a brief eclipse due to the involvement of one of his sons
with Khusrau’s rebellion, he had been restored to his position. Having been
tested in this office, and following Nur Jahan’s marriage with Jahangir, he was
raised to the office of the chief diwan. Other members of the family also
benefited from this alliance, their mansabs being augmented. Itimaduddaula
proved to be able, competent and loyal, and wielded considerable influence in
the affairs of the state till his death ten years later. Nur Jahan’s brother, Asaf
Khan, was also a learned and able man. He was appointed the khan-i-saman,
a post reserved for nobles in whom the emperor had full confidence. He
Page 4


FIFTEEN
India in the First Half of the
Seventeenth Century
POLITICAL AND ADMINISTRATIVE DEVELOPMENTS IN INDIA
The first half of the seventeenth century in India was, on the whole, an era of
progress and growth. During the period, the Mughal empire was ruled by two
capable rulers, Jahangir (1605–27), and Shah Jahan (1628–1658). In southern
India, too, as we have seen, the states of Bijapur and Golconda were able to
provide conditions of internal peace and cultural growth. The Mughal rulers
consolidated the administrative system which had developed under Akbar.
They maintained the alliance with the Rajputs, and tried to further broaden
the political base of the empire by allying with powerful sections such as the
Afghans and the Marathas. They embellished their capitals with beautiful
buildings, many of them in marble, and tried to make the Mughal court the
centre of the cultural life in the country. The Mughals played a positive role in
stabilising India's relations with neighbouring Asian powers such as Iran, the
Uzbeks, and the Ottoman Turks, thereby opening up greater avenues for
India’s foreign trade. Trade concessions given to various European trading
companies were also aimed at promoting India’s foreign trade. But a number
of negative features came to the surface during the period. The growing
prosperity of the ruling classes did not filter down to peasants and workers
whose lives remained hard and miserable. The Mughal ruling class remained
oblivious of the growth of science and technology in the West. The problem
of succession to the throne created instability, thus posing a threat to the
political system as well as to economic and cultural growth.
Jahangir, the eldest son of Akbar, succeeded to the throne without any
difficulty, his younger brothers having died during the life-time of Akbar due
to excessive drinking. However, shortly after Jahangir’s succession, his eldest
son, Khusrau, broke out into rebellion. Tussle between father and son for the
throne was not unusual in those time. Jahangir himself had rebelled against
his father, and kept the empire disturbed for some time. However, Khusrau’s
rebellion proved to be short-lived. Jahangir defeated him at a battle near
Lahore and soon afterwards he was captured and imprisoned.
We have already seen how Jahangir brought to an end the conflict with
Mewar which had continued for four decades, and the struggle in the Deccan
with Malik Ambar who was not prepared to accept the settlement made by
Akbar. There was conflict in the east, too. Although Akbar had broken the
back of the power of the Afghans in this region. Afghan chiefs were still
powerful in various parts of east Bengal. They had the support of many
Hindu rajas of the region, such as the rajas of Jessore, Kamrup (western
Assam), Cachar, etc. Towards the end of his reign, Akbar had recalled Raja
Man Singh, the governor of Bengal, to the court, and during his absence the
Afghan chief, Usman Khan, and others found an opportunity to raise a
rebellion. Jahangir sent back Man Singh for some time but the situation
continued to worsen. In 1608, Jahangir posted to Bengal, Islam Khan, the
grandson of Shaikh Salim Chishti, the famous Sufi saint who was the patron
saint of the Mughals. Though young in years, Islam Khan handled the
situation with great energy and foresight. He won over many of the
zamindars including the Raja of Jessore to his side, and fixed his headquarters
at Dacca, which was strategically located, to deal with the rebels. To keep the
area under full control, soon the provincial capital was transferred from
Rajmahal to Dacca which began to develop rapidly. Islam Khan first directed
his efforts to the conquest of Sonargaon which was under the control of Musa
Khan and his confederates who were called the Barah (twelve) Bhuiyan. After
three years of campaigning, Sonargaon was captured. Soon afterwards, Musa
Khan surrendered and he was sent to the court as a prisoner. Usman Khan’s
turn came next, and he was defeated in a fierce battle. The back of the Afghan
resistance was now broken and the other rebels soon surrendered. The
principalities of Jessore and Kamrup were annexed. Thus Mughal power was
firmly entrenched in east Bengal.
Like Akbar, Jahangir realised that conquest would be lasting on the basis
not of force but of securing the goodwill of the people. He, therefore, treated
the defeated Afghan chiefs and their followers with consideration and
sympathy. After some time, many of the princes and zamindars of Bengal
detained at the court were released and allowed to return to Bengal. Even
Musa Khan was released and his estates restored. Thus after a long spell,
peace and prosperity returned to Bengal. To cap the process, more Afghans
now began to be inducted into the Mughal nobility. The leading Afghan
noble under Jahangir was Khan-i-Jahan Lodi who rendered distinguished
service in the Deccan.
By 1622, Jahangir had brought Malik Ambar to heel, patched up the long
drawn out tussle with Mewar, and pacified Bengal. Jahangir was still fairly
young (51), and a long era of peace seemed to be ahead. But the situation was
changed radically by two developments—the Persian conquest of Qandhar
which was a blow to Mughal prestige, and the growing failure of Jahangir’s
health which unleashed the latent struggle for succession among the princes,
and led to jockeying for power by the nobles. These developments pitch-
forked Nur Jahan into the political arena.
NUR JAHAN
The story of Nur Jahan’s life, her first marriage with an Iranian, Sher Afgan,
and his death in a clash with the Mughal governor of Bengal, Nur Jahan’s stay
in Agra with an elderly relation of Jahangir, and her marriage with Jahangir
four years later (1611) are too well known to be repeated in detail here. Sober
historians do not believe that Jahangir was responsible for the death of her
first husband. Jahangir’s chance meeting with her in the Meena Bazar and
marrying her was not so unusual. Her family was a respectable one, and her
father, Itimaduddaula, had been made joint diwan by Jahangir in the first year
of his reign. After a brief eclipse due to the involvement of one of his sons
with Khusrau’s rebellion, he had been restored to his position. Having been
tested in this office, and following Nur Jahan’s marriage with Jahangir, he was
raised to the office of the chief diwan. Other members of the family also
benefited from this alliance, their mansabs being augmented. Itimaduddaula
proved to be able, competent and loyal, and wielded considerable influence in
the affairs of the state till his death ten years later. Nur Jahan’s brother, Asaf
Khan, was also a learned and able man. He was appointed the khan-i-saman,
a post reserved for nobles in whom the emperor had full confidence. He
married his daughter to Khurram (Shah Jahan) who was his father’s favourite
following the rebellion and imprisonment of Khusrau.
Some modern historians are of the opinion that along with her father and
brother, and in alliance with Khurram, Nur Jahan formed a group or ‘junta’
which ‘managed’ Jahangir so that without its backing and support no one
could advance in his career, and that this led to the division of the court into
two factions—the Nur Jahan, ‘junta’ and its opponents. It is further argued
that Nur Jahan’s political ambitions ultimately resulted in a breach between
her and Shah Jahan, and that this drove Shah Jahan into rebellion against his
father in 1622, since he felt that Jahangir was completely under Nur Jahan’s
influence. However, some other historians do not agree with this view. They
point out that till 1622 when Jahangir’s health broke down, all the important
political decisions were taken by Jahangir himself as is clear from his
autobiography. The precise political role of Nur Jahan during this period is
not clear. Coins were issued in her name, and she was given the title of
Badshah Begum. Important nobles used to call on her to apprise her of
events, and to secure her intervention with the emperor. She dominated the
royal household and set new fashions based on Persian traditions. On account
of her position, Persian art and culture acquired great prestige at the court.
Nur Jahan was the constant companion of Jahangir, and even joined him in
his hunting expeditions since she was a good rider and a sure shot. As such,
she could influence Jahangir, and many people approached her to intercede
with the king on their behalf. Under Mughal rule, no woman had reached
such an important position earlier. But Jahangir was not dependent on the
‘junta’ or on Nur Jahan, as is also borne out by the fact that nobles who were
not favourites of the ‘junta’ continued to get their normal promotions. The
rise of Shah Jahan was due to his personal qualities and achievements rather
than the backing of Nur Jahan. Shah Jahan had his own ambitions of which
Jahangir was not unaware. In any case, in those times, no ruler could afford to
allow a noble or a prince to become too powerful lest he challenge his
authority. This was the basic reason for the conflict between Jahangir and
Shah Jahan.
SHAH JAHAN’S REBELLION
Page 5


FIFTEEN
India in the First Half of the
Seventeenth Century
POLITICAL AND ADMINISTRATIVE DEVELOPMENTS IN INDIA
The first half of the seventeenth century in India was, on the whole, an era of
progress and growth. During the period, the Mughal empire was ruled by two
capable rulers, Jahangir (1605–27), and Shah Jahan (1628–1658). In southern
India, too, as we have seen, the states of Bijapur and Golconda were able to
provide conditions of internal peace and cultural growth. The Mughal rulers
consolidated the administrative system which had developed under Akbar.
They maintained the alliance with the Rajputs, and tried to further broaden
the political base of the empire by allying with powerful sections such as the
Afghans and the Marathas. They embellished their capitals with beautiful
buildings, many of them in marble, and tried to make the Mughal court the
centre of the cultural life in the country. The Mughals played a positive role in
stabilising India's relations with neighbouring Asian powers such as Iran, the
Uzbeks, and the Ottoman Turks, thereby opening up greater avenues for
India’s foreign trade. Trade concessions given to various European trading
companies were also aimed at promoting India’s foreign trade. But a number
of negative features came to the surface during the period. The growing
prosperity of the ruling classes did not filter down to peasants and workers
whose lives remained hard and miserable. The Mughal ruling class remained
oblivious of the growth of science and technology in the West. The problem
of succession to the throne created instability, thus posing a threat to the
political system as well as to economic and cultural growth.
Jahangir, the eldest son of Akbar, succeeded to the throne without any
difficulty, his younger brothers having died during the life-time of Akbar due
to excessive drinking. However, shortly after Jahangir’s succession, his eldest
son, Khusrau, broke out into rebellion. Tussle between father and son for the
throne was not unusual in those time. Jahangir himself had rebelled against
his father, and kept the empire disturbed for some time. However, Khusrau’s
rebellion proved to be short-lived. Jahangir defeated him at a battle near
Lahore and soon afterwards he was captured and imprisoned.
We have already seen how Jahangir brought to an end the conflict with
Mewar which had continued for four decades, and the struggle in the Deccan
with Malik Ambar who was not prepared to accept the settlement made by
Akbar. There was conflict in the east, too. Although Akbar had broken the
back of the power of the Afghans in this region. Afghan chiefs were still
powerful in various parts of east Bengal. They had the support of many
Hindu rajas of the region, such as the rajas of Jessore, Kamrup (western
Assam), Cachar, etc. Towards the end of his reign, Akbar had recalled Raja
Man Singh, the governor of Bengal, to the court, and during his absence the
Afghan chief, Usman Khan, and others found an opportunity to raise a
rebellion. Jahangir sent back Man Singh for some time but the situation
continued to worsen. In 1608, Jahangir posted to Bengal, Islam Khan, the
grandson of Shaikh Salim Chishti, the famous Sufi saint who was the patron
saint of the Mughals. Though young in years, Islam Khan handled the
situation with great energy and foresight. He won over many of the
zamindars including the Raja of Jessore to his side, and fixed his headquarters
at Dacca, which was strategically located, to deal with the rebels. To keep the
area under full control, soon the provincial capital was transferred from
Rajmahal to Dacca which began to develop rapidly. Islam Khan first directed
his efforts to the conquest of Sonargaon which was under the control of Musa
Khan and his confederates who were called the Barah (twelve) Bhuiyan. After
three years of campaigning, Sonargaon was captured. Soon afterwards, Musa
Khan surrendered and he was sent to the court as a prisoner. Usman Khan’s
turn came next, and he was defeated in a fierce battle. The back of the Afghan
resistance was now broken and the other rebels soon surrendered. The
principalities of Jessore and Kamrup were annexed. Thus Mughal power was
firmly entrenched in east Bengal.
Like Akbar, Jahangir realised that conquest would be lasting on the basis
not of force but of securing the goodwill of the people. He, therefore, treated
the defeated Afghan chiefs and their followers with consideration and
sympathy. After some time, many of the princes and zamindars of Bengal
detained at the court were released and allowed to return to Bengal. Even
Musa Khan was released and his estates restored. Thus after a long spell,
peace and prosperity returned to Bengal. To cap the process, more Afghans
now began to be inducted into the Mughal nobility. The leading Afghan
noble under Jahangir was Khan-i-Jahan Lodi who rendered distinguished
service in the Deccan.
By 1622, Jahangir had brought Malik Ambar to heel, patched up the long
drawn out tussle with Mewar, and pacified Bengal. Jahangir was still fairly
young (51), and a long era of peace seemed to be ahead. But the situation was
changed radically by two developments—the Persian conquest of Qandhar
which was a blow to Mughal prestige, and the growing failure of Jahangir’s
health which unleashed the latent struggle for succession among the princes,
and led to jockeying for power by the nobles. These developments pitch-
forked Nur Jahan into the political arena.
NUR JAHAN
The story of Nur Jahan’s life, her first marriage with an Iranian, Sher Afgan,
and his death in a clash with the Mughal governor of Bengal, Nur Jahan’s stay
in Agra with an elderly relation of Jahangir, and her marriage with Jahangir
four years later (1611) are too well known to be repeated in detail here. Sober
historians do not believe that Jahangir was responsible for the death of her
first husband. Jahangir’s chance meeting with her in the Meena Bazar and
marrying her was not so unusual. Her family was a respectable one, and her
father, Itimaduddaula, had been made joint diwan by Jahangir in the first year
of his reign. After a brief eclipse due to the involvement of one of his sons
with Khusrau’s rebellion, he had been restored to his position. Having been
tested in this office, and following Nur Jahan’s marriage with Jahangir, he was
raised to the office of the chief diwan. Other members of the family also
benefited from this alliance, their mansabs being augmented. Itimaduddaula
proved to be able, competent and loyal, and wielded considerable influence in
the affairs of the state till his death ten years later. Nur Jahan’s brother, Asaf
Khan, was also a learned and able man. He was appointed the khan-i-saman,
a post reserved for nobles in whom the emperor had full confidence. He
married his daughter to Khurram (Shah Jahan) who was his father’s favourite
following the rebellion and imprisonment of Khusrau.
Some modern historians are of the opinion that along with her father and
brother, and in alliance with Khurram, Nur Jahan formed a group or ‘junta’
which ‘managed’ Jahangir so that without its backing and support no one
could advance in his career, and that this led to the division of the court into
two factions—the Nur Jahan, ‘junta’ and its opponents. It is further argued
that Nur Jahan’s political ambitions ultimately resulted in a breach between
her and Shah Jahan, and that this drove Shah Jahan into rebellion against his
father in 1622, since he felt that Jahangir was completely under Nur Jahan’s
influence. However, some other historians do not agree with this view. They
point out that till 1622 when Jahangir’s health broke down, all the important
political decisions were taken by Jahangir himself as is clear from his
autobiography. The precise political role of Nur Jahan during this period is
not clear. Coins were issued in her name, and she was given the title of
Badshah Begum. Important nobles used to call on her to apprise her of
events, and to secure her intervention with the emperor. She dominated the
royal household and set new fashions based on Persian traditions. On account
of her position, Persian art and culture acquired great prestige at the court.
Nur Jahan was the constant companion of Jahangir, and even joined him in
his hunting expeditions since she was a good rider and a sure shot. As such,
she could influence Jahangir, and many people approached her to intercede
with the king on their behalf. Under Mughal rule, no woman had reached
such an important position earlier. But Jahangir was not dependent on the
‘junta’ or on Nur Jahan, as is also borne out by the fact that nobles who were
not favourites of the ‘junta’ continued to get their normal promotions. The
rise of Shah Jahan was due to his personal qualities and achievements rather
than the backing of Nur Jahan. Shah Jahan had his own ambitions of which
Jahangir was not unaware. In any case, in those times, no ruler could afford to
allow a noble or a prince to become too powerful lest he challenge his
authority. This was the basic reason for the conflict between Jahangir and
Shah Jahan.
SHAH JAHAN’S REBELLION
The immediate cause of the rebellion was Shah Jahan’s refusal to proceed to
Qandhar which had been besieged by the Persians. Shah Jahan was afraid that
the campaign would be a long and difficult one and that intrigues would be
hatched against him during his absence from the court. Hence, he put
forward a number of demands such as full command of the army which
included the veterans of the Deccan, complete sway over the Punjab, control
over a number of important forts, etc. Jahangir was enraged by this attitude.
Convinced that the prince was meditating rebellion, he wrote harsh letters,
and took punitive steps which only made the situation worse, and resulted in
an open breach. From Mandu, where he was stationed, Shah Jahan made a
sudden dash on Agra in order to capture the treasures lodged there. Shah
Jahan had the full backing of the Deccan army and all the nobles posted there.
Gujarat and Malwa had declared for him, and he had the support of his
father-in-law, Asaf Khan, and a number of important nobles at the court.
However, in the battle near Delhi, Shah Jahan was defeated by the forces led
by Mahabat Khan. He was saved from complete defeat by the valiant stand of
the Mewar contingent. Another army was sent to wrest Gujarat from Shah
Jahan. Shah Jahan was hounded out of the Mughal territories and compelled
to take shelter with his erstwhile enemies, the Deccani rulers. However, he
crossed the Deccan into Orissa, took the governor by surprise, and soon
Bengal and Bihar were under his control. Mahabat Khan was again pressed
into service. He took energetic steps, and compelled Shah Jahan to retreat in
to the Deccan again. This time, he made an alliance with Malik Ambar who
was once again at war with the Mughals. However, soon Shah Jahan wrote
abject letters of apology to Jahangir. Jahangir also felt that it was time to
pardon and conciliate his ablest and most energetic son. As part of the
agreement, two of Shah Jahan’s sons, Dara and Aurangzeb, were sent to the
court as hostages, and a tract in the Deccan was assigned for Shah Jahan’s
expenses. This was in 1626.
MAHABAT KHAN
Shah Jahan’s rebellion kept the empire distracted for four years, resulted in
the loss of Qandhar, and emboldened the Deccanis to recover all the
territories surrendered to the Mughals during Akbar’s time and in subsequent
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