Chapter 9

Eighteenth-Century Political Formations

By the end of the seventeenth century, the boundaries of the Mughal Empire were declined by the emergence of a number of independent kingdoms.The British had successfully grabbed major chunks of territory in eastern India.Political conditions in 18th century India change quite dramatically and within a relatively short span of time.There were various factors behind the shrinking of Mughal Empire.

Crisis of Empire

Later Mughals and attacks

Emperor Aurangzeb has depleted the military and financial resources of his empire by fighting along war in the Deccan.Under his successors, the efficiency of the imperial administration broke down.It became increasingly difficult for the Mughal emperors to keep a check on the powerful mansabdars. Nobles appointed as governors(subadars) who controlled the offices of revenue and military administration (diwani and faujdari) as well. This gave them extraordinary political, economic and military powers over vast regions of the  Mughal Empire. Peasants and zamindari rebellions in many parts of the northern and western India added to these problems.These groups were not able to seize the economic resources of the region to consolidate their positions.The Mughal emperors after Aurangzeb were unable to arrest the gradual shifting of political and economic authority into the hands of provincial governors, local chieftains and another groups.In the midst of this economic and political crisis, the ruler of Iran, Nadir Shah sacked and plundered the city of Delhi in 1739 and took away immense amounts of wealth.This invasion was followed by Afghan ruler Ahmad Shah Abdali, who invadednorth India 5 times between 1748 and 1761.The Empire was further weakened by competition among different groups of nobles. They were divided into two major groups, or fractions. The Irani's and Turanis(nobles of Turkish descent).The worst possible humiliation came when two Mughal emperors, Farrukh Siyar and Alamgir II were assassinated, and two other Ahmad Shah and Shah Alam II were blinded by their nobles.

Nadir shah attacks, Delhi

Nadir Shah

The devastation of Delhi after Nadir Shah’s invasion was described by contemporary observers. The wealth looted from Mughal treasury was- sixty lakhs of rupees and some thousand gold coins, nearly one crore worth of gold-ware nearly fifty crore worth of jewels, most of them unrivalled in the world, and the above included the Peacock throne.Another account describe the invasion’s impact upon Delhi.Those who had been masters were now in dire straits and those who had been revoked couldn't even quench their thirst. The recluses were pulled out of their corners. The wealthy were turned into beggars. Those who once set the style in clothes now went naked. And those who owned property, for now homeless. The new city Shahjahanabad was turned into rubble. Nadir Shah then attacked the old quarters of the city and destroyed the whole world that existed there.