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MAHOMMEDAN PERIOD]
403
INDIA

In 1572 he marched in person into Gujarat, defeated the last of the independent sultans of Ahmedabad, and formed the province into a Mogul viceroyalty or subah. In the same year his generals drove out the Afghans from Bengal, and reunited the lower valley of the Ganges to Hindustan. Akbar was then the undisputed ruler of a larger portion of India than had ever before acknowledged the sway of one man. But he continued to extend his conquests throughout his lifetime. In 1578 Orissa was annexed to Bengal by his Hindu general Todar Mall, who forthwith organized a revenue survey of the whole province. Kabul submitted in 1581, Kashmir in 1587, Sind in 1592, and Kandahar in 1594. At last he turned his arms against the Mahommedan kings of the Deccan, and wrested from them Berar; but the permanent conquest of the south was reserved for Aurangzeb.

If the history of Akbar were confined to this long list of conquests, his name would on their account alone find a high place among those which mankind delights to remember. But it is as a civil administrator that his reputation is cherished in India to the present day. With regard to the land revenue, the essence of his procedure was to fix the amount which the cultivators should pay at one-third of the gross produce, leaving it to their option to pay in money or in kind. The total land revenue received by Akbar amounted to about 16½ millions sterling. Comparing the area of his empire with the corresponding area now under the British, it has been calculated that Akbar, three hundred years ago, obtained 15½ millions where they obtain only 13½ millions—an amount representing not more than one-half the purchasing power of Akbar’s 15½ millions. The distinction between khalsa land, or the imperial demesne, and jagir lands, granted revenue free or at quit rent in reward for services, also dates from the time of Akbar. As regards his military system, Akbar invented a sort of feudal organization, by which every tributary raja took his place by the side of his own Mogul nobles. In theory it was an aristocracy based only upon military command; but practically it accomplished the object at which it aimed by incorporating the hereditary chiefships of Rajputana among the mushroom creations of a Mahommedan despotism. Mussulmans and Hindus were alike known only as mansabdars or commanders of so many horse, the highest title being that of amir, of which the plural is umrah or omrah. The third and last of Akbar’s characteristic measures were those connected with religious innovation, about which it is difficult to speak with precision. The necessity of conciliating the proud warriors of Rajputana had taught him toleration from his earliest days. His favourite wife was a Rajput princess, and another wife is said to have been a Christian. Out of four hundred and fifteen of his mansabdars whose names are recorded, as many as fifty-one were Hindus. Starting from the broad ground of general toleration, Akbar was gradually led on by the stimulus of cosmopolitan discussion to question the truth of his inherited faith. The counsels of his friend Abul Fazl, coinciding with that sense of superhuman omnipotence which is bred of despotic power, led him at last to promulgate a new state religion, based upon natural theology, and comprising the best practices of all known creeds. In this strange faith Akbar himself was the prophet, or rather the head of the church. Every morning he worshipped the sun in public, as being the representative of the divine soul that animates the universe, while he was himself worshipped by the ignorant multitude.

Akbar died in 1605, in his sixty-third year. He lies buried beneath a plain slab in the magnificent mausoleum which he had reared at Sikandra, near his capital of Agra. As his name is still cherished in India, so his tomb is still honoured, being covered by a cloth presented by Lord Northbrook when viceroy in 1873.

The reign of Jahangir, his son, extended from 1605 to 1627. It is chiefly remarkable for the influence exercised over the emperor by his favourite wife, surnamed Nur Jahan. The Jahangir. currency was struck in her name, and in her hands centred all the intrigues that made up the work of administration. She lies buried by the side of her husband at Lahore, whither the seat of government had been moved by Jahangir, just as Akbar had previously transferred it from Delhi to Agra. It was in the reign of Jahangir that the English first established themselves at Surat, and also sent their first embassy to the Mogul court.

Jahangir was succeeded by his son Shah Jahan, who had rebelled against his father, as Jahangir had rebelled against Akbar. Shah Jahan’s reign is generally regarded as the period when the Mogul empire attained its greatest Shah Jahan. magnificence, though not its greatest extent of territory. He founded the existing city of Delhi, which is still known to its Mahommedan inhabitants as Shahjahanabad. At Delhi also he erected the celebrated peacock throne; but his favourite place of residence was Agra, where his name will ever be associated with the marvel of Indian architecture, the Taj Mahal. That most chaste and most ornamental of buildings was erected by Shah Jahan as the mausoleum of his favourite wife Mumtäz Mahal, and he himself lies by her side (see Agra). Shah Jahan had four sons, whose fratricidal wars for the succession during their father’s lifetime it would be tedious to dwell upon. Suffice it to say that Aurangzeb, by mingled treachery and violence, supplanted or overthrew his brothers and proclaimed himself emperor in 1658, while Shah Jahan was yet alive.

Aurangzeb’s long reign, from 1658 to 1707, may be regarded as representing both the culminating point of Mogul power and the beginning of its decay. Unattractive as his character was, it contained at least some elements Aurangzeb. of greatness. None of his successors on the throne was any thing higher than a debauchee or a puppet. He was the first to conquer the independent sultans of the Deccan, and to extend his authority to the extreme south. But even during his lifetime two new Hindu nationalities were being formed in the Mahrattas and the Sikhs; while immediately after his death the nawabs of the Deccan, of Oudh, and of Bengal raised themselves to practical independence. Aurangzeb had indeed enlarged the empire, but he had not strengthened its foundations. During the reign of his father Shah Jahan he had been viceroy of the Deccan or rather of the northern portion only, which had been annexed to the Mogul empire since the reign of Akbar. His early ambition was to conquer the Mahommedan kings of Bijapur and Golconda, who, since the downfall of Vijayanagar, had been practically supreme over the south.

This object was not accomplished without many tedious campaigns, in which Sivaji, the founder of the Mahratta confederacy, first comes upon the scene. In name Sivaji was a feudatory of the house of Bijapur, on whose Rise of Mahratta power. behalf he held the rock-forts of his native Ghats; but in fact he found his opportunity in playing off the Mahommedan powers against one another, and in rivalling Aurangzeb himself in the art of treachery. In 1680 Sivaji died, and his son and successor, Sambhaji, was betrayed to Aurangzeb and put to death. The rising Mahratta power was thus for a time checked, and the Mogul armies were set free to operate in the eastern Deccan. In 1686 the city of Bijapur was taken by Aurangzeb in person, and in the following year Golconda also fell. No independent power then remained in the south, though the numerous local chieftains, known as palegars and naiks, never formally submitted to the Mogul empire. During the early years of his reign Aurangzeb had fixed his capital at Delhi, while he kept his dethroned father, Shah Jahan, in close confinement at Agra. In 1682 he set out with his army on his victorious march into the Deccan, and from that time until his death in 1707 he never again returned to Delhi. In this camp life Aurangzeb may be taken as representative of one aspect of the Mogul rule, which has been picturesquely described by European travellers of that day. They agree in depicting the emperor as a peripatetic sovereign, and the empire as held together by its military highways no less than by the strength of its armies. The Grand Trunk road running across the north of the peninsula, is generally attributed to the Afghan usurper, Sher Shah. The other roads branching out southward from Agra, to Surat and Burhanpur and Golconda, were