Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

undoubtedly the work of Mogul times. Each of these roads was laid out with avenues of trees, with wells of water, and with frequent saráis or rest-houses. Constant communication between the capital and remote cities was maintained by a system of foot-runners, whose aggregate speed is said to have surpassed that of a horse. Commerce was conducted by means of a caste of bullock-drivers, whose occupation in India is hardly yet extinct.

On the death of Aurangzeb in 1707, the decline of the Mogul empire set in with extraordinary rapidity. Ten emperors after Aurangzeb are enumerated in the chronicles, but none of them has left any mark on history. His son Decline of Mogul Empire. and successor was Bahadur Shah, who reigned only five years. Then followed in order three sons of Bahadur Shah, whose united reigns occupy only five years more. In 1739 Nadir Shah of Persia, the sixth and last of the great Mahommedan conquerors of India, swept like a whirlwind over Hindustan, and sacked the imperial city of Delhi. Thenceforth the Great Mogul became a mere name, though the hereditary succession continued unbroken down to the time of the Mutiny. Real power had passed into the hands of Mahommedan courtiers and Mahratta generals, both of whom were then carving for themselves kingdoms out of the dismembered empire, until at last British authority placed itself supreme over all. From the time of Aurangzeb no Mussulman, however powerful, dared to assume the title of sultan or emperor, with the single exception of Tippoo’s brief paroxysm of madness. The name of nawáb, corrupted by Europeans into “nabob,” appears to be an invention of the Moguls to express delegated authority, and as such it is the highest title conferred upon Mahommedans at the present day, as maharaja is the highest title conferred upon Hindus. At first nawabs were only found in important cities, such as Surat and Dacca, with the special function of administering civil justice; criminal justice was in the hands of the kotwál. The corresponding officials at that time in a large tract of country were the subahdar and the faujdar. But the title of subahdar, or viceroy, gradually dropped into desuetude, as the paramount power was shaken off, and nawab became a territorial title with some distinguishing adjunct. During the troubled period of intrigue and assassination that followed on the death of Aurangzeb, two Mahommedan foreigners rose to high position as courtiers and generals, and succeeded in transmitting their power to their sons. The one was Chin Kulich Khan, also called Asaf Jah, and still more commonly Nizam-ul-Mulk, who was of Turkoman origin, and belonged to the Sunni sect. His independence at Hyderabad in the Deccan dates from 1712. The other was Saadat Ali Khan, a Persian, and therefore a Shiah, who was appointed subahdar or nawab of Oudh about 1720. Thenceforth these two important provinces paid no more tribute to Delhi, though their hereditary rulers continued to seek formal recognition from the emperor on their succession. The Mahrattas were in possession of the entire west and great part of the centre of the peninsula; while the rich and unwarlike province of Bengal, though governed by an hereditary line of nawabs founded by Murshid Kuli Khan in 1704, still continued to pour its wealth into the imperial treasury. The central authority never recovered from the invasion of Nadir Shah in 1739, who carried off plunder variously estimated at from 8 to 30 millions sterling. The Mahrattas closed round Delhi from the south, and the Afghans from the west. The victory of Panipat, won by Ahmad Shah Durani over the united Mahratta confederacy in 1761, gave the Mahommedans one more chance of rule. But Ahmad Shah had no ambition to found a dynasty of his own, nor were the British in Bengal yet ready for territorial conquest.

Shah Alam, the lineal heir of the Mogul line, was thus permitted to ascend the throne of Delhi, where he lived during the great part of a long life as a puppet in the hands of End of Mogul line. Mahadji Sindhia. He was succeeded by Akbar II., who lived similarly under the shadow of British protection. Last of all came Bahadur Shah, who atoned for his association with the mutineers in 1857 by banishment to Burma. Thus ended the Mogul line, after a history which covers three hundred and thirty years. Mahommedan rule remodelled the revenue system, and has left behind fifty millions of Mussulmans in British India.

Early European Settlements.

Mahommedan invaders have always entered India from the north-west. Her new conquerors approached from the sea and from the south. From the time of Alexander to that of Vasco da Gama, Europe had enjoyed little direct intercourse with the East. An occasional traveller brought back stories of powerful kingdoms and of untold wealth; but the passage by sea was unthought of, and by land many wide deserts and warlike tribes lay between. Commerce, indeed, never ceased entirely, being carried on chiefly by the Italian cities on the Mediterranean, which traded to the ports of the Levant. But to the Europeans of the 15th century India was practically an unknown land, which powerfully attracted the imagination of spirits stimulated by the Renaissance and ardent for discovery. In 1492 Christopher Columbus set sail under the Spanish flag to seek India beyond the Atlantic, bearing with him a letter to the great khan of Tartary. The expedition under Vasco da Gama started from Lisbon five years later, and, doubling the Cape of Good Hope, cast anchor off the city of Calicut on the 20th of May 1498, after a prolonged voyage of nearly eleven months. From the first da Gama encountered hostility from the “Moors,” or rather Arabs, who monopolized the sea-borne trade; but he seems to have found favour with the zamorin, or Hindu raja of Malabar. It may be worth while to recall the contemporary condition of India at that epoch. An Afghan of the Lodi dynasty was on the throne of Delhi, and another Afghan king was ruling over Bengal. Ahmedabad in Gujarat, Gulbarga, Bijapur, Ahmednagar and Ellichpur in the Deccan were each the capital of an independent Mahommedan kingdom; while the Hindu raja of Vijayanagar was recognized as paramount over the entire south. Neither Mogul nor Mahratta had yet appeared above the political horizon.

After staying nearly six months on the Malabar coast, da Gama returned to Europe by the same route as he had come, bearing with him the following letter from the zamorin to the king of Portugal: “Vasco da Gama, a nobleman Portuguese expeditions. of your household, has visited my kingdom and has given me great pleasure. In my kingdom there is abundance of cinnamon, cloves, ginger, pepper, and precious stones. What I seek from thy country is gold, silver, coral, and scarlet.” The arrival of da Gama at Lisbon was celebrated with national rejoicings scarcely less enthusiastic than had greeted the return of Columbus. If the West Indies belonged to Spain by priority of discovery, Portugal might claim the East Indies by the same right. Territorial ambition combined with the spirit of proselytism and with the greed of commerce to fill all Portuguese minds with the dream of a mighty Oriental empire. The early Portuguese discoverers were not traders or private adventurers, but admirals with a royal commission to conquer territory and promote the spread of Christianity. A second expedition, consisting of thirteen ships and twelve hundred soldiers, under the command of Cabral, was despatched in 1500. “The sum of his instructions was to begin with preaching, and, if that failed, to proceed to the sharp determination of the sword.” On his outward voyage Cabral was driven by stress of weather to the coast of Brazil. Ultimately he reached Calicut, and established factories both there and at Cochin, in the face of active hostility from the natives. In 1502 the king of Portugal obtained from Pope Alexander VI. a bull constituting him “lord of the navigation, conquest, and trade of Ethiopia, Arabia, Persia, and India.” In that year Vasco da Gama sailed again to the East, with a fleet numbering twenty vessels. He formed an alliance with the rajas of Cochin and Cannanore against the zamorin of Calicut, and bombarded the latter in his palace. In 1503 the great Alfonso d’Albuquerque is first heard of, as in command of one of three expeditions from Portugal.

In 1505 a large fleet of twenty sail and fifteen hundred men was