The Mughal Empire, Mogul or Moghul Empire, was an early modern
empire in South Asia
[ Quote: "Although the first two Timurid emperors and many of their noblemen were recent migrants to the subcontinent, the dynasty and the empire itself became indisputably Indian. The interests and futures of all concerned were in India, not in ancestral homelands in the Middle East or Central Asia. Furthermore, the Mughal empire emerged from the Indian historical experience. It was the end product of a millennium of Muslim conquest, colonization, and state-building in the Indian subcontinent."]
For some two centuries, the empire stretched from the outer fringes of the Indus basin
in the west, northern Afghanistan
in the northwest, and Kashmir
in the north, to the highland
s of present-day Assam
in the east, and the uplands of the Deccan plateau
in south India
[ Quote: "The realm so defined and governed was a vast territory of some , ranging from the frontier with Central Asia in northern Afghanistan to the northern uplands of the Deccan plateau, and from the Indus basin on the west to the Assamese highlands in the east."]
The Mughal empire is conventionally said to have been founded in 1526 by Babur
, a warrior chieftain from what today is Uzbekistan
, who employed aid from the neighbouring Safavid
[ Quote: "Babur then adroitly gave the Ottomans his promise not to attack them in return for their military aid, which he received in the form of the newest of battlefield inventions, the matchlock gun and cast cannons, as well as instructors to train his men to use them."]
to defeat the Sultan of Delhi
, Ibrahim Lodhi
, in the First Battle of Panipat
, and to sweep down the plains of Upper India
. The Mughal imperial structure, however, is sometimes dated to 1600, to the rule of Babur's grandson, Akbar
[ Quote: "Another possible date for the beginning of the Mughal regime is 1600, when the institutions that defined the regime were set firmly in place and when the heartland of the empire was defined; both of these were the accomplishment of Babur’s grandson Akbar."]
This imperial structure lasted until 1720, until shortly after the death of the last major emperor, Aurengzeb
[ Quote: "The imperial career of the Mughal house is conventionally reckoned to have ended in 1707 when the emperor Aurangzeb, a fifth-generation descendant of Babur, died. His fifty-year reign began in 1658 with the Mughal state seeming as strong as ever or even stronger. But in Aurangzeb’s later years the state was brought to the brink of destruction, over which it toppled within a decade and a half after his death; by 1720 imperial Mughal rule was largely finished and an epoch of two imperial centuries had closed."] [ Quote: "By the latter date (1720) the essential structure of the centralized state was disintegrated beyond repair."]
during whose reign the empire also achieved its maximum geographical extent. Reduced subsequently, especially during the East India Company rule
in India, to the region in and around Old Delhi
, the empire was formally dissolved by the British Raj
after the Indian Rebellion of 1857
Although the Mughal empire was created and sustained by military warfare,
[ Quote: "The vaunting of such progenitors pointed up the central character of the Mughal regime as a warrior state: it was born in war and it was sustained by war until the eighteenth century, when warfare destroyed it."] [ Quote: "The Mughal state was geared for war, and succeeded while it won its battles. It controlled territory partly through its network of strongholds, from its fortified capitals in Agra, Delhi or Lahore, which defined its heartlands, to the converted and expanded forts of Rajasthan and the Deccan. The emperors' will was frequently enforced in battle. Hundreds of army scouts were an important source of information. But the empire's administrative structure too was defined by and directed at war. Local military checkpoints or thanas kept order. Directly appointed imperial military and civil commanders (faujdars) controlled the cavalry and infantry, or the administration, in each region. The peasantry in turn were often armed, able to provide supporters for regional powers, and liable to rebellion on their own account: continual pacification was required of the rulers."] [ Quote: "With Safavid and Ottoman aid, the Mughals would soon join these two powers in a triumvirate of warrior-driven, expansionist, and both militarily and bureaucratically efficient early modern states, now often called "gunpowder empires" due to their common proficiency is using such weapons to conquer lands they sought to control."]
it did not vigorously suppress the cultures and peoples it came to rule, but balanced them by establishing new administrative practices, and incorporating diverse ruling elites, leading to more efficient, centralised, and standarized rule.
The base of the empire's collective wealth was agricultural taxes, instituted by the third Mughal emperor, Akbar.
[ Quote: "The resource base of Akbar’s new order was land revenue"] [ Quote: "The Mughal empire was based in the interior of a large land-mass and derived the vast majority of its revenues from agriculture."]
These taxes, which amounted to well over half the output of a peasant cultivator,
[ Quote: "... well over half of the output from the fields in his realm, after the costs of production had been met, is estimated to have been taken from the peasant producers by way of official taxes and unofficial exactions. Moreover, payments were exacted in money, and this required a well regulated silver currency."]
were paid in the well-regulated silver currency,
and caused peasants and artisans to enter larger markets.
[ Quote: "His stipulation that land taxes be paid in cash forced peasants into market networks, where they could obtain the necessary money, while the standardization of imperial currency made the exchange of goods for money easier."]
The relative peace maintained by the empire during much of the 17th century was a factor in India's economic expansion.
[ Quote: "Above all, the long period of relative peace ushered in by Akbar's power, and maintained by his successors, contributed to India's economic expansion."]
Burgeoning European presence in the Indian ocean, and its increasing demand for Indian raw and finished products, created still greater wealth in the Mughal courts.
[ Quote: "As the European presence in India grew, their demands for Indian goods and trading rights increased, thus bringing even greater wealth to the already flush Indian courts."]
There was more conspicuous consumption among the Mughal elite,
[ Quote: "The elite spent more and more money on luxury goods, and sumptuous lifestyles, and the rulers built entire new capital cities at times."]
resulting in greater patronage of painting
, literary forms, textiles, and architecture
, especially during the reign of Shah Jahan
[ Quote: "All these factors resulted in greater patronage of the arts, including textiles, paintings, architecture, jewelry, and weapons to meet the ceremonial requirements of kings and princes."]
Among the Mughal UNESCO World Heritage Sites
in South Asia are: Agra Fort
, Fatehpur Sikri
, Red Fort
, Humayun's Tomb
, Lahore Fort
and the Taj Mahal
, which is described as the "jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world's heritage."
Contemporaries referred to the empire founded by Babur
as the Timurid
which reflected the heritage of his dynasty, and this was the term preferred by the Mughals themselves.
The Mughal designation for their own dynasty was Gurkani ( fa|گورکانیان, ''Gūrkāniyān'', meaning "sons-in-law").
The use of "Mughal" derived from the Arabic and Persian corruption of "Mongol
", and it emphasised the Mongol origins of the Timurid dynasty.
The term gained currency during the 19th century, but remains disputed by Indologists
Similar terms had been used to refer to the empire, including "Mogul" and "Moghul".
Nevertheless, Babur's ancestors were sharply distinguished from the classical Mongols insofar as they were oriented towards Persian
rather than Turco-Mongol
Another name for the empire was Hindustan
, which was documented in the Ain-i-Akbari
, and which has been described as the closest to an official name for the empire.
In the west, the term "Mughal
" was used for the emperor, and by extension, the empire as a whole.
Babur and Humayun (1526–1556)
The Mughal Empire was founded by Babur
(reigned 1526–1530), a Central Asian ruler who was descended from the Turco-Mongol conqueror Timur
(the founder of the Timurid Empire
) on his father's side, and from Genghis Khan
on his mother's side.
Ousted from his ancestral domains in Central Asia, Babur turned to India to satisfy his ambitions.
He established himself in Kabul
and then pushed steadily southward into India from Afghanistan
through the Khyber Pass
Babur's forces occupied much of northern India after his victory at Panipat
The preoccupation with wars and military campaigns, however, did not allow the new emperor to consolidate the gains he had made in India.
The instability of the empire became evident under his son, Humayun
(reigned 1530–1556), who was forced into exile in Persia by rebels. The Sur Empire
(1540–1555), founded by Sher Shah Suri
(reigned 1540–1545), briefly interrupted Mughal rule.
Humayun's exile in Persia established diplomatic ties between the Safavid
and Mughal Courts, and led to increasing Persian cultural influence in the Mughal Empire. Humayun's triumphant return from Persia in 1555 restored Mughal rule, but he died in an accident the next year.
Akbar to Aurangzeb (1556–1707)
(reigned 1556–1605) was born Jalal-ud-din Muhammad in the Rajput Umarkot Fort
, to Humayun and his wife Hamida Banu Begum
, a Persian
princess. Akbar succeeded to the throne under a regent, Bairam Khan
, who helped consolidate the Mughal Empire in India. Through warfare and diplomacy, Akbar was able to extend the empire in all directions and controlled almost the entire Indian subcontinent north of the Godavari River
. He created a new ruling elite loyal to him, implemented a modern administration, and encouraged cultural developments. He increased trade with European trading companies.
India developed a strong and stable economy, leading to commercial expansion and economic development. Akbar allowed freedom of religion at his court, and attempted to resolve socio-political and cultural differences in his empire by establishing a new religion, Din-i-Ilahi
, with strong characteristics of a ruler cult.
He left his son an internally stable state, which was in the midst of its golden age, but before long signs of political weakness would emerge.
reigned 1605–1627) was born to Akbar and his wife Mariam-uz-Zamani
, an Indian Rajput
princess. He "was addicted to opium, neglected the affairs of the state, and came under the influence of rival court cliques".
Jahangir delibrately distinguished himself from Akbar, and made substantial efforts to harness the support of the Islamic religious establishment, granting them great tracts of land as madad-i ma'ash holders. In contrast to Akbar, Jahangir came into conflict with non-Muslim religious leaders, notably the Sikh
, whose execution was the first of many conflicts between the Mughal empire and the Sikh community.
(reigned 1628–1658) was born to Jahangir and his wife Jagat Gosaini
, a Rajput princess.
During the reign of Shah Jahan, the splendour of the Mughal court reached its peak, as exemplified by the Taj Mahal
.The cost of maintaining the court, however, began to exceed the revenue coming in.
His reign was called as "The Golden Age of Mughal Architecture". Shah Jahan extended the Mughal empire to the Deccan by ending the Nizam Shahi dynasty, and forced the Adil Shahis and Qutb Shahis to pay tribute.
Shah Jahan's eldest son, the liberal Dara Shikoh
, became regent in 1658, as a result of his father's illness. Dara championed a syncretistic Hindu-Muslim culture. With the support of the Islamic orthodoxy, however, a younger son of Shah Jahan, Aurangzeb
(reigned 1658–1707), seized the throne. Aurangzeb defeated Dara in 1659 and had him executed.
Although Shah Jahan fully recovered from his illness, Aurangzeb declared him incompetent to rule, and kept Shah Jahan imprisoned until his death in 1666.
During Aurangzeb's reign, the empire gained political strength once more and became the world's most powerful economy. Aurangzeb oversaw an increase in the Islamicization of the Mughal state. He encouraged conversion to Islam, reinstated the ''jizya
'' on non-Muslims, and compiled the ''Fatwa Alamgiri''
, a collection of Islamic law. Aurangzeb also executed the Sikh guru Tegh Bahadur
, leading to the militarization of the Sikh community.
He expanded the empire to include almost the whole of South Asia,
but at his death in 1707, "many parts of the empire were in open revolt".
Aurangzeb is considered India's most controversial king,
with some historians arguing his religious conservatism and intolerance undermined the stability of Mughal society,
while other historians question this, noting that he built Hindu temple
employed significantly more Hindu
s in his imperial bureaucracy than his predecessors did, opposed bigotry against Hindus and Shia Muslims
and married Hindu Rajput princess Nawab Bai
Aurangzeb's son, Bahadur Shah I
, repealed the religious policies of his father and attempted to reform the administration. "However, after his death in 1712, the Mughal dynasty sank into chaos and violent feuds. In 1719 alone, four emperors successively ascended the throne".
During the reign of Muhammad Shah
(reigned 1719–1748), the empire began to break up, and vast tracts of central India passed from Mughal to Maratha
hands. The far-off Indian campaign
of Nadir Shah
, who had previously reestablished Iranian suzerainty
over most of West Asia, the Caucasus, and Central Asia, culminated with the Sack of Delhi
and shattered the remnants of Mughal power and prestige. Many of the empire's elites now sought to control their own affairs, and broke away to form independent kingdoms. But, according to Sugata Bose
and Ayesha Jalal
, the Mughal Emperor continued to be the highest manifestation of sovereignty. Not only the Muslim gentry, but the Maratha, Hindu, and Sikh leaders took part in ceremonial acknowledgments of the emperor as the sovereign of India.
Meanwhile, some regional polities within the increasingly fragmented Mughal Empire, involved themselves and the state in global conflicts, leading only to defeat and loss of territory during the Carnatic Wars
and the Bengal War
The Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II
(1759–1806) made futile attempts to reverse the Mughal decline but ultimately had to seek the protection of the Emir of Afghanistan, Ahmed Shah Abdali, which led to the Third Battle of Panipat
between the Maratha Empire and the Afghans (led by Abdali) in 1761. In 1771, the Marathas recaptured Delhi from Afghan control and in 1784 they officially became the protectors of the emperor in Delhi,
a state of affairs that continued until the Second Anglo-Maratha War
. Thereafter, the British East India Company
became the protectors of the Mughal dynasty in Delhi.
The British East India Company
took control of the former Mughal province of Bengal-Bihar in 1793 after it abolished local rule (Nizamat) that lasted until 1858, marking the beginning of British colonial era over the Indian Subcontinent. By 1857 a considerable part of former Mughal India was under the East India Company's control. After a crushing defeat in the war of 1857–1858
which he nominally led, the last Mughal, Bahadur Shah Zafar
, was deposed by the British East India Company
and exiled in 1858. Through the Government of India Act 1858
the British Crown
assumed direct control of East India Company-held territories in India in the form of the new British Raj
. In 1876 the British Queen Victoria
assumed the title of Empress of India
Causes of decline
Historians have offered numerous explanations for the rapid collapse of the Mughal Empire between 1707 and 1720, after a century of growth and prosperity. In fiscal terms, the throne lost the revenues needed to pay its chief officers, the emirs (nobles) and their entourages. The emperor lost authority, as the widely scattered imperial officers lost confidence in the central authorities, and made their own deals with local men of influence. The imperial army bogged down in long, futile wars against the more aggressive Marathas
, lost its fighting spirit. Finally came a series of violent political feuds over control of the throne. After the execution of Emperor Farrukhsiyar
in 1719, local Mughal successor states took power in region after region.
Contemporary chroniclers bewailed the decay they witnessed, a theme picked up by the first British historians who wanted to underscore the need for a British-led rejuvenation.
Modern views on the decline
Since the 1970s historians have taken multiple approaches to the decline, with little consensus on which factor was dominant. The psychological interpretations emphasise depravity in high places, excessive luxury, and increasingly narrow views that left the rulers unprepared for an external challenge. A Marxist school (led by Irfan Habib
and based at Aligarh Muslim University
) emphasises excessive exploitation of the peasantry by the rich, which stripped away the will and the means to support the regime. Karen Leonard has focused on the failure of the regime to work with Hindu bankers, whose financial support was increasingly needed; the bankers then helped the Maratha and the British. In a religious interpretation, some scholars argue that the Hindu powers revolted against the rule of a Muslim dynasty. Finally, other scholars argue that the very prosperity of the Empire inspired the provinces to achieve a high degree of independence, thus weakening the imperial court.
Jeffrey G. Williamson
has argued that the Indian economy
went through deindustrialization
in the latter half of the 18th century as an indirect outcome of the collapse of the Mughal Empire, with British rule
later causing further deindustrialization.
According to Williamson, the decline of the Mughal Empire led to a decline in agricultural productivity, which drove up food prices
, then nominal
wages, and then textile prices, which led to India losing a share of the world textile market to Britain even before it had superior factory technology
Indian textiles, however, still maintained a competitive advantage over British textiles up until the 19th century.
''Subah'' () was the term for a province in the Mughal Empire. The word is derived from Arabic
. The governor of a ''Subah'' was known as a ''subahdar
'' (sometimes also referred to as a "''Subah''"
), which later became ''subedar
'' to refer to an officer in the Indian Army
. The ''subahs'' were established by padshah
during his administrative reforms of 1572–1580; initially, they numbered 12, but his conquests expanded the number of ''subahs'' to 15 by the end of his reign. ''Subahs'' were divided into ''Sarkars
'', or districts. ''Sarkars'' were further divided into ''Pargana
s'' or ''Mahals
''. His successors, most notably Aurangzeb
, expanded the number of ''subahs'' further through their conquests. As the empire began to dissolve in the early 18th century, many ''subahs'' became effectively independent, or were conquered by the Maratha
s or the British
The original twelve subahs created as a result of administrative reform by Akbar:
* Agra Subah
* Ajmer subah
* Awadh Subah
* Bengal Subah
* Bihar Subah
* Delhi Subah
* Gujarat Subah
* Kabul Subah
* Illahabad Subah
* Lahore Subah
* Malwa Subah
* Multan Subah
* Thatta (Sindh) Subah
The Indian economy was large and prosperous under the Mughal Empire.
During the Mughal era, the gross domestic product
(GDP) of India in 1600 was estimated at about 22% of the world economy
, the second largest in the world, behind only Ming China
but larger than Europe. By 1700, the GDP of Mughal India had risen to 24% of the world economy, the largest in the world, larger than both Qing China
and Western Europe.
Mughal empire was producing about 25% of the world's industrial output up until the 18th century.
[Jeffrey G. Williamson & David Clingingsmith]
India's Deindustrialization in the 18th and 19th Centuries
Global Economic History Network, London School of Economics
India's GDP growth increased under the Mughal Empire, with India's GDP having a faster growth rate during the Mughal era than in the 1,500 years prior to the Mughal era.
Mughal India's economy has been described as a form of proto-industrialization
, like that of 18th-century Western Europe prior to the Industrial Revolution
The Mughals were responsible for building an extensive road system, creating a uniform currency, and the unification of the country.
The empire had an extensive road network, which was vital to the economic infrastructure, built by a public works
department set up by the Mughals which designed, constructed and maintained roads linking towns and cities across the empire, making trade easier to conduct.
The main base of the empire's collective wealth was agricultural taxes, instituted by the third Mughal emperor, Akbar.
These taxes, which amounted to well over half the output of a peasant cultivator,
were paid in the well-regulated silver currency,
and caused peasants and artisans to enter larger markets.
The Mughals adopted and standardized the rupee
(''rupiya'', or silver) and dam
(copper) currencies introduced by Sur
Emperor Sher Shah Suri
during his brief rule. The currency was initially 48 dams to a single rupee in the beginning of Akbar's reign, before it later became 38 dams to a rupee in the 1580s, with the dam's value rising further in the 17th century as a result of new industrial uses for copper, such as in bronze cannons and brass utensils. The dam was initially the most common coin in Akbar's time, before being replaced by the rupee as the most common coin in succeeding reigns.
The dam's value was later worth 30 to a rupee towards the end of Jahangir's reign, and then 16 to a rupee by the 1660s. The Mughals minted coins with high purity, never dropping below 96%, and without debasement
until the 1720s.
Despite India having its own stocks of gold and silver, the Mughals produced minimal gold of their own, but mostly minted coins from imported bullion
, as a result of the empire's strong export-driven economy, with global demand for Indian agricultural and industrial products drawing a steady stream of precious metal
s into India.
Around 80% of Mughal India's imports were bullion, mostly silver,
with major sources of imported bullion including the New World
which in turn imported large quantities of textiles and silk from the Bengal Subah
The historian Shireen Moosvi estimates that in terms of contributions to the Mughal economy, in the late 16th century, the primary sector contributed 52%, the secondary sector 18% and the tertiary sector 29%; the secondary sector contributed a higher percentage than in early 20th-century British India
, where the secondary sector only contributed 11% to the economy. In terms of urban-rural divide, 18% of Mughal India's labour force were urban and 82% were rural, contributing 52% and 48% to the economy, respectively.
According to Stephen Broadberry and Bishnupriya Gupta, grain wages in India were comparable to England in the 16th and 17th centuries, but diverged in the 18th century when they fell to 20-40% of England's wages. This, however, is disputed by Parthasarathi and Sivramkrishna. Parthasarathi cites his estimates that grain wages for weaving and spinning in mid-18 century Bengal and South India was comparable to Britain. Similarly, Sivramkrishna analyzed agricultural surveys conducted in Mysore by Francis Buchanan during 1800-1801, arrived at estimates using a "subsistence basket" that aggregated millet
income could be almost five times subsistence level, while corresponding rice income was three times that much. That could be comparable to advance part of Europe. Due to the scarcity of data, however, more research is needed before drawing any conclusion.
According to Moosvi, Mughal India had a per-capita income, in terms of wheat, 1.24% higher in the late 16th century than British India did in the early 20th century. This income, however, would have to be revised downwards if manufactured goods, like clothing, would be considered. Compared to food per-capita, expenditure on clothing was much smaller though, so relative income between 1595-1596 should be comparable to 1901-1910. However, in a system where wealth was hoarded by elites, wages were depressed for manual labour
In Mughal India, there was a generally tolerant attitude towards manual labourers, with some religious cults in northern India proudly asserting a high status for manual labour. While slavery
also existed, it was limited largely to household servants.
Indian agricultural production increased under the Mughal Empire.
A variety of crops were grown, including food crops such as wheat, rice, and barley
, and non-food cash crop
s such as cotton, indigo
. By the mid-17th century, Indian cultivators begun to extensively grow two new crops from the Americas, maize and tobacco.
The Mughal administration emphasized agrarian reform
, which began under the non-Mughal emperor Sher Shah Suri, the work of which Akbar adopted and furthered with more reforms. The civil administration was organized in a hierarchical manner on the basis of merit, with promotions based on performance. The Mughal government funded the building of irrigation
systems across the empire, which produced much higher crop yield
s and increased the net revenue base, leading to increased agricultural production.
A major Mughal reform introduced by Akbar was a new land revenue system called ''zabt''. He replaced the tribute
system, previously common in India and used by Tokugawa Japan
at the time, with a monetary tax system based on a uniform currency.
The revenue system was biased in favour of higher value cash crops such as cotton, indigo, sugar cane
, tree-crops, and opium, providing state incentives to grow cash crops, in addition to rising market demand.
Under the ''zabt'' system, the Mughals also conducted extensive cadastral surveying
to assess the area of land under plow
cultivation, with the Mughal state encouraging greater land cultivation by offering tax-free periods to those who brought new land under cultivation.
The expansion of agriculture and cultivation continued under later Mughal emperors including Aurangzeb, whose 1665 firman
edict stated: "the entire elevated attention and desires of the Emperor are devoted to the increase in the population and cultivation of the Empire and the welfare of the whole peasantry and the entire people."
Mughal agriculture was in some ways advanced compared to European agriculture at the time, exemplified by the common use of the seed drill
among Indian peasants before its adoption in Europe. While the average peasant across the world was only skilled in growing very few crops, the average Indian peasant was skilled in growing a wide variety of food and non-food crops, increasing their productivity. Indian peasants were also quick to adapt to profitable new crops, such as maize and tobacco from the New World being rapidly adopted and widely cultivated across Mughal India between 1600 and 1650. Bengali
farmers rapidly learned techniques of mulberry
cultivation and sericulture
, establishing Bengal Subah
as a major silk-producing region of the world.
s appeared in India shortly before the Mughal era. Evidence for the use of a draw bar
for sugar-milling appears at Delhi in 1540, but may also date back earlier, and was mainly used in the northern Indian subcontinent. Geared sugar rolling mills
first appeared in Mughal India, using the principle of rollers as well as worm gear
ing, by the 17th century.
[Irfan Habib (2011)]
''Economic History of Medieval India, 1200–1500'', p. 53
According to economic historian Immanuel Wallerstein
, citing evidence from Irfan Habib
, Percival Spear
, and Ashok Desai
, per-capita agricultural output and standards of consumption in 17th-century Mughal India
were probably higher than in 17th-century Europe and certainly higher than early 20th-century British India
. The increased agricultural productivity led to lower food prices. In turn, this benefited the Indian textile industry
. Compared to Britain, the price of grain was about one-half in South India and one-third in Bengal, in terms of silver coinage. This resulted in lower silver coin prices for Indian textiles, giving them a price advantage in global markets.
Up until 1750, India produced about 25% of the world's industrial output.
and cash crops from the Mughal Empire were sold throughout the world. Key industries included textiles, shipbuilding
, and steel. Processed products included cotton textiles, yarn
, silk, jute
, and foods such as sugar, oils and butter.
The growth of manufacturing industries in the Indian subcontinent during the Mughal era in the 17th–18th centuries has been referred to as a form of proto-industrialization
, similar to 18th-century Western Europe prior to the Industrial Revolution
In early modern Europe
, there was significant demand for products from Mughal India, particularly cotton textiles, as well as goods such as spices, peppers, indigo
, silks, and saltpeter
(for use in munitions
, for example, became increasingly dependent on Mughal Indian textiles and silks. From the late 17th century to the early 18th century, Mughal India accounted for 95% of British imports
from Asia, and the Bengal Subah
province alone accounted for 40% of Dutch imports
, ''History of World Trade Since 1450'', edited by John J. McCusker, vol. 1, Macmillan Reference US, 2006, pp. 237–240, ''World History in Context''. Retrieved 3 August 2017
In contrast, there was very little demand for European goods in Mughal India, which was largely self-sufficient, thus Europeans had very little to offer, except for some woolen
s, unprocessed metals and a few luxury items. The trade imbalance caused Europeans to export large quantities of gold and silver to Mughal India in order to pay for South Asian imports.
Indian goods, especially those from Bengal, were also exported in large quantities to other Asian markets, such as Indonesia
The largest manufacturing industry in the Mughal Empire was textile manufacturing
, particularly cotton textile manufacturing, which included the production of piece goods
s, and muslin
s, available unbleached and in a variety of colours. The cotton textile industry
was responsible for a large part of the empire's international trade.
India had a 25% share of the global textile trade in the early 18th century. Indian cotton textiles were the most important manufactured goods in world trade in the 18th century, consumed across the world from the Americas to Japan.
By the early 18th century, Mughal Indian textiles were clothing people across the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, Europe, the Americas, Africa, and the Middle East.
The most important center of cotton production was the Bengal province, particularly around its capital city of Dhaka
[Richard Maxwell Eaton (1996)]
''The Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier, 1204–1760'', p. 202
University of California Press
Bengal accounted for more than 50% of textiles and around 80% of silks imported by the Dutch from Asia,
Bengali silk and cotton textiles were exported in large quantities to Europe, Indonesia, and Japan,
and Bengali muslin
textiles from Dhaka were sold in Central Asia, where they were known as "daka" textiles.
Indian textiles dominated the Indian Ocean trade
for centuries, were sold in the Atlantic Ocean trade, and had a 38% share of the West African trade in the early 18th century, while Indian calicos were a major force in Europe, and Indian textiles accounted for 20% of total English trade with Southern Europe in the early 18th century.
The worm gear
roller cotton gin
, which was invented in India during the early Delhi Sultanate
era of the 13th–14th centuries, came into use in the Mughal Empire sometime around the 16th century,
and is still used in India through to the present day.
Another innovation, the incorporation of the crank
handle in the cotton gin, first appeared in India sometime during the late Delhi Sultanate or the early Mughal Empire. The production of cotton, which may have largely been spun in the villages and then taken to towns in the form of yarn to be woven into cloth textiles, was advanced by the diffusion of the spinning wheel
across India shortly before the Mughal era, lowering the costs of yarn and helping to increase demand for cotton. The diffusion of the spinning wheel, and the incorporation of the worm gear and crank handle into the roller cotton gin led to greatly expanded Indian cotton textile production during the Mughal era.
Once, the Mughal emperor Akbar asked his courtiers, which was the most beautiful flower. Some said rose, from whose petals were distilled the precious itr, others, the lotus, glory of every Indian village. But Birbal said, “The cotton boll”. There was a scornful laughter and Akbar asked for an explanation. Birbal said, “Your Majesty, from the cotton boll comes the fine fabric prized by merchants across the seas that has made your empire famous throughout the world. The perfume of your fame far exceeds the scent of roses and jasmine. That is why I say the cotton boll is the most beautiful flower.
Mughal India had a large shipbuilding
industry, which was also largely centered in the Bengal province. Economic historian Indrajit Ray estimates shipbuilding output of Bengal during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries at 223,250 tons annually, compared with 23,061 tons produced in nineteen colonies in North America from 1769 to 1771.
He also assesses ship repairing as very advanced in Bengal.
Indian shipbuilding, particularly in Bengal, was advanced compared to European shipbuilding at the time, with Indians selling ships to European firms. An important innovation in shipbuilding was the introduction of a flushed deck
design in Bengal rice ships, resulting in hulls
that were stronger and less prone to leak than the structurally weak hulls of traditional European ships built with a stepped deck
design. The British East India Company
later duplicated the flushed deck and hull designs of Bengal rice ships in the 1760s, leading to significant improvements in seaworthiness
and navigation for European ships during the Industrial Revolution
The Bengal Subah
province was especially prosperous from the time of its takeover by the Mughals in 1590 until the British East India Company seized control in 1757. It was the Mughal Empire's wealthiest province. Domestically, much of India depended on Bengali products such as rice, silks and cotton textiles. Overseas, Europeans depended on Bengali products such as cotton textiles, silks, and opium; Bengal accounted for 40% of Dutch imports from Asia, for example, including more than 50% of textiles and around 80% of silks.
From Bengal, saltpeter was also shipped to Europe, opium was sold in Indonesia, raw silk was exported to Japan and the Netherlands, and cotton and silk textiles were exported to Europe, Indonesia and Japan.
Akbar played a key role in establishing Bengal as a leading economic centre, as he began transforming many of the jungles there into farms. As soon as he conquered the region, he brought tools and men to clear jungles in order to expand cultivation and brought Sufis
to open the jungles to farming.
Bengal was later described as the ''Paradise of Nations'' by Mughal emperors. The Mughals introduced agrarian reform
s, including the modern Bengali calendar
. The calendar played a vital role in developing and organising harvests, tax collection and Bengali culture in general, including the New Year
festivals. The province was a leading producer of grains, salt, fruits, liquors and wines, precious metals and ornaments.
industry flourished under royal warrants
, making the region a hub of the worldwide muslin trade
, which peaked in the 17th and 18th centuries. The provincial capital Dhaka
became the commercial capital of the empire. The Mughals expanded cultivated land in the Bengal delta
under the leadership of Sufi
s, which consolidated the foundation of Bengali Muslim
After 150 years of rule by Mughal viceroy
s, Bengal gained semi-independence as a dominion
under the Nawab of Bengal
in 1717. The Nawabs permitted European companies to set up trading posts across the region, including firms from Britain
, the Netherlands
, Portugal and Austria
. An Armenian
community dominated banking and shipping in major cities and towns. The Europeans regarded Bengal as the richest place for trade.
By the late 18th century, the British
displaced the Mughal ruling class in Bengal.
India's population growth accelerated under the Mughal Empire, with an unprecedented economic and demographic upsurge which boosted the Indian population by 60%
to 253% in 200 years during 1500–1700.
[Angus Maddison (2001), ''The World Economy: A Millennial Perspective'']
OECD Development Centre
The Indian population had a faster growth during the Mughal era than at any known point in Indian history
prior to the Mughal era.
By the time of Aurangzeb's reign, there were a total of 455,698 villages in the Mughal Empire.
The following table gives population estimates for the Mughal Empire, compared to the total population of India, including the regions of modern Pakistan
, and compared to the world population
According to Irfan Habib Cities and towns boomed under the Mughal Empire, which had a relatively high degree of urbanization for its time, with 15% of its population living in urban centres.
This was higher than the percentage of the urban population in contemporary Europe at the time and higher than that of British India
in the 19th century;
the level of urbanization in Europe did not reach 15% until the 19th century.
Under Akbar's reign in 1600, the Mughal Empire's urban population was up to 17 million people, 15% of the empire's total population. This was larger than the entire urban population in Europe at the time, and even a century later in 1700, the urban population of England, Scotland and Wales did not exceed 13% of its total population,
while British India had an urban population that was under 13% of its total population in 1800 and 9% in 1881, a decline from the earlier Mughal era. By 1700, Mughal India had an urban population of 23 million people, larger than British India's urban population of 22.3 million in 1871.
Those estimates were criticized by Tim Dyson
, who consider them exaggerations. According to Dyson urbanization of Mughal empire was less then 9%
The historian Nizamuddin Ahmad
(1551–1621) reported that, under Akbar's reign, there were 120 large cities and 3200 townships.
A number of cities in India had a population between a quarter-million and half-million people,
with larger cities including Agra
(in Agra Subah
) with up to 800,000 people, Lahore
(in Lahore Subah
) with up to 700,000 people, Dhaka
(in Bengal Subah
) with over 1 million people, and Delhi (in Delhi Subah
) with over 600,000 people.
Cities acted as markets for the sale of goods, and provided homes for a variety of merchants, traders, shopkeepers, artisans, moneylenders, weavers, craftspeople, officials, and religious figures.
However, a number of cities were military and political centres, rather than manufacturing or commerce centres.
The Mughal Empire was definitive in the early-modern and modern periods of South Asian history, with its legacy in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan seen in cultural contributions such as:
* Centralized imperial rule that consolidated the smaller polities of South Asia.
* The amalgamation of Persian art
and literature with Indian art
* The development of Mughlai cuisine
, an amalgamation of South Asian, Iranian and Central Asian culinary styles.
* The development of Mughal clothing
, jewelry and fashion, utilizing richly decorated fabrics such as muslin, silk, brocade and velvet.
* The standardization of the Hindustani language
(the colloquial language of Bollywood
), and thus the development of Hindi
* The introduction of sophisticated Iranian-style waterworks and horticulture through Mughal gardening
* The introduction of Turkish bath
s into the Indian subcontinent.
* The evolution and refinement of Mughal
and Indian architecture
and in turn, the development of later Rajput and Sikh palatial architecture. A famous Mughal landmark is the Taj Mahal
* The development of the Pehlwani
style of Indian wrestling
, a combination of Indian malla-yuddha
and Persian varzesh-e bastani
* The construction of Maktab
schools, where youth were taught the Quran
and Islamic law
such as the ''Fatawa-i-Alamgiri
'' in their indigenous languages.
* The development of Hindustani classical music
, and instruments such as the sitar
The Mughals made a major contribution to the Indian subcontinent
with the development of their unique Indo-Persian architecture
. Many monuments were built during the Mughal era by the Muslim emperors, especially Shah Jahan
, including the Taj Mahal
—a UNESCO World Heritage Site
considered to be "the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world's heritage", attracting 7–8 million unique visitors a year. The palaces, tombs, gardens and forts built by the dynasty stand today in Agra
, Fatehpur Sikri
, and many other cities of India
, and Bangladesh
, such as:
Art and literature
The Mughal artistic tradition
, mainly expressed in painted miniatures, as well as small luxury objects, was eclectic, borrowing from Iranian, Indian, Chinese and Renaissance European stylistic and thematic elements. Mughal emperors often took in Iranian bookbinders, illustrators, painters and calligraphers from the Safavid court due to the commonalities of their Timurid styles, and due to the Mughal affinity for Iranian art and calligraphy. Miniatures commissioned by the Mughal emperors initially focused on large projects illustrating books with eventful historical scenes and court life, but later included more single images for albums, with portraits and animal paintings displaying a profound appreciation for the serenity and beauty of the natural world. For example, Emperor Jahangir commissioned brilliant artists such as Ustad Mansur
to realistically portray unusual flora and fauna throughout the empire.
The literary works Akbar and Jahangir ordered to be illustrated ranged from epics like the ''Razmnama
'' (a Persian translation of the Hindu epic, the ''Mahabharata
'') to historical memoirs or biographies of the dynasty such as the ''Baburnama
'' and ''Akbarnama
'', and ''Tuzk-e-Jahangiri
''. Richly-finished albums (''muraqqa
'') decorated with calligraphy and artistic scenes were mounted onto pages with decorative borders and then bound with covers of stamped and gilded or painted and lacquered leather. Aurangzeb (1658–1707) was never an enthusiastic patron of painting, largely for religious reasons, and took a turn away from the pomp and ceremonial of the court around 1668, after which he probably commissioned no more paintings.
was the dominant and "official" language of the empire, the language of the elite was a Persianised form of Hindustani
. The language was written in a type of Perso-Arabic script
known as Nastaliq
, and with literary conventions and specialised vocabulary borrowed from Persian
and Turkic languages
; the dialect was eventually given its own name of Urdu. The Mughals spoke what later became known as Urdu, and by the year 1700, the Mughals had formalized the language.
Mughal India was one of the three Islamic gunpowder empires
, along with the Ottoman Empire
and Safavid Persia
By the time he was invited by Lodi
governor of Lahore
, Daulat Khan
, to support his rebellion against Lodi Sultan Ibrahim Khan
was familiar with gunpowder firearm
s and field artillery
, and a method for deploying them. Babur had employed Ottoman expert Ustad Ali Quli
, who showed Babur the standard Ottoman formation—artillery and firearm-equipped infantry protected by wagons in the center and the mounted archer
s on both wings. Babur used this formation at the First Battle of Panipat
in 1526, where the Afghan
forces loyal to the Delhi Sultanate
, though superior in numbers but without the gunpowder weapons, were defeated. The decisive victory of the Timurid forces is one reason opponents rarely met Mughal princes in pitched battle over the course of the empire's history. In India, guns made of bronze
were recovered from Calicut
(1504) and Diu
(c. 1582), a Persian polymath and mechanical engineer who worked for Akbar, developed an early multi gun shot. As opposed to the polybolos
and repeating crossbow
s used earlier in ancient Greece
and China, respectively, Shirazi's rapid-firing gun had multiple gun barrel
s that fired hand cannon
s loaded with gunpowder. It may be considered a version of a volley gun
By the 17th century, Indians were manufacturing a diverse variety of firearms; large guns in particular, became visible in Tanjore
Rocketry and explosives
In the sixteenth century, Akbar
was the first to initiate and use metal cylinder rocket
s known as ''bans'', particularly against war elephant
s, during the Battle of Sanbal. In 1657, the Mughal Army
used rockets during the Siege of Bidar
[Ghulam Yazdani, ''Bidar, Its History and Monuments'', (Motilal Banarsidass, 1995), 15.]
Prince Aurangzeb's forces discharged rockets and grenade
s while scaling the walls. Sidi Marjan was mortally wounded when a rocket struck his large gunpowder depot, and after twenty-seven days of hard fighting Bidar was captured by the Mughals.
In ''A History of Greek Fire and Gunpowder'', James Riddick Partington
described Indian rockets and explosive mines
The Indian war rockets were formidable weapons before such rockets were used in Europe. They had bam-boo rods, a rocket-body lashed to the rod, and iron points. They were directed at the target and fired by lighting the fuse, but the trajectory was rather erratic. The use of mines and counter-mines with explosive charges of gunpowder is mentioned for the times of Akbar and Jahāngir.
Later, the Mysorean rockets
were upgraded versions of Mughal rockets used during the Siege of Jinji
by the progeny of the Nawab of Arcot
. Hyder Ali
's father Fatah Muhammad
the constable at Budikote
, commanded a corps consisting of 50 rocketmen (''Cushoon'') for the Nawab of Arcot. Hyder Ali realised the importance of rockets and introduced advanced versions of metal cylinder rockets. These rockets turned fortunes in favour of the Sultanate of Mysore
during the Second Anglo-Mysore War
, particularly during the Battle of Pollilur
. In turn, the Mysorean rockets were the basis for the Congreve rocket
s, which Britain deployed in the Napoleonic Wars
against France and the War of 1812
against the United States.
While there appears to have been little concern for theoretical astronomy
, Mughal astronomers
made advances in observational astronomy
and produced nearly a hundred ''Zij
'' treatises. Humayun
built a personal observatory
near Delhi; Jahangir and Shah Jahan were also intending to build observatories, but were unable to do so. The astronomical instruments
and observational techniques used at the Mughal observatories were mainly derived from Islamic astronomy
In the 17th century, the Mughal Empire saw a synthesis between Islamic and Hindu astronomy
, where Islamic observational instruments were combined with Hindu computational
During the decline of the Mughal Empire, the Hindu king Jai Singh II of Amber
continued the work of Mughal astronomy
. In the early 18th century, he built several large observatories called Yantra Mandirs
, in order to rival Ulugh Beg
's Samarkand observatory
, and in order to improve on the earlier Hindu computations in the ''Siddhantas
'' and Islamic observations in ''Zij-i-Sultani
''. The instruments he used were influenced by Islamic astronomy, while the computational techniques were derived from Hindu astronomy.
Sake Dean Mahomed
had learned much of Mughal chemistry
and understood the techniques used to produce various alkali
and soaps to produce shampoo
. He was also a notable writer who described the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II
and the cities of Allahabad
and Delhi in rich detail and also made note of the glories of the Mughal Empire.
In Britain, Sake Dean Mahomed was appointed as shampooing surgeon
to both Kings George IV
and William IV
One of the most remarkable astronomical instruments invented in Mughal India is the seamless celestial globe
. It was invented in Kashmir
by Ali Kashmiri ibn Luqman in 998 AH
(1589–90 CE), and twenty other such globe
s were later produced in Lahore
and Kashmir during the Mughal Empire. Before they were rediscovered in the 1980s, it was believed by modern metallurgists
to be technically impossible to produce metal globes without any seams
[Savage-Smith, Emilie (1985), ''Islamicate Celestial Globes: Their History, Construction, and Use'', Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC]
List of Mughal Emperors
* Mughal dynasty
* Flags of the Mughal Empire
* Mughal Emperors
* List of Mongol states
* Mughal (tribe)
* Mughal Harem
* Mughal weapons
* Mughal architecture
* Mughal-Mongol genealogy
* Islam In South Asia
* Alam, Muzaffar. ''Crisis of Empire in Mughal North India: Awadh & the Punjab, 1707–48'' (1988)
* , on the causes of its collapse
* Black, Jeremy. "The Mughals Strike Twice", ''History Today'' (April 2012) 62#4 pp. 22–26. full text online
* Dale, Stephen F. ''The Muslim Empires of the Ottomans, Safavids and Mughals'' (Cambridge U.P. 2009)
* , on Akbar and his brother
* Gommans; Jos. ''Mughal Warfare: Indian Frontiers and Highroads to Empire, 1500–1700'' (Routledge, 2002online edition
* Gordon, S. ''The New Cambridge History of India
, II, 4: The Marathas 1600–1818'' (Cambridge, 1993).
* Habib, Irfan. ''Atlas of the Mughal Empire: Political and Economic Maps'' (1982).
* Srivastava, Ashirbadi Lal. ''The Mughul Empire, 1526–1803'' (1952) online.
* Berinstain, V. ''Mughal India: Splendour of the Peacock Throne'' (London, 1998).
* Busch, Allison. ''Poetry of Kings: The Classical Hindi Literature of Mughal India'' (2011excerpt and text search
* Schimmel, Annemarie
. ''The Empire of the Great Mughals: History, Art and Culture'' (Reaktion 2006)
Society and economy
* Habib, Irfan. ''Atlas of the Mughal Empire: Political and Economic Maps'' (1982).
* Habib, Irfan. ''Agrarian System of Mughal India'' (1963, revised edition 1999).
* Rothermund, Dietmar. ''An Economic History of India: From Pre-Colonial Times to 1991'' (1993)
* Hiro, Dilip, ed, ''Journal of Emperor Babur'' (Penguin Classics 2007)
** ''The Baburnama: Memoirs of Babur, Prince and Emperor'' ed. by W.M. Thackston Jr. (2002); this was the first autobiography in Islamic literature
* Jackson, A.V. et al., eds. ''History of India'' (1907) v. 9. Historic accounts of India by foreign travellers, classic, oriental, and occidental, by A.V.W. Jacksoonline edition
* Elliot, Sir H.M., Edited by Dowson, John. ''The History of India, as Told by Its Own Historians. The Muhammadan Period
''; published by London Trubner Company 1867–1877. (Online Copy at Packard Humanities Institute
– Other Persian Texts in Translation; historical books: Author List and Title List)
Mughals and Swat
an interactive experience from the British Museum
* A. Taghvaee, i''Web Journal on Cultural Patrimony'' (Fabio Maniscalco ed.)
vol. 1, January–June 2006
* ttp://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/1566398.stm A Mughal diamond on BBCThe Mughal Empire
BBC Radio 4 discussion with Sanjay Subrahmanyam, Susan Stronge & Chandrika Kaul (''In Our Time'', Feb. 26, 2004)
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