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Regional Powers/Marathas/Society in 18th Century

Regional Power-Centers The Maratha Indian States and Society In the 18th Century

Regional Powers

• The states that arose in India during the phase of Mughal decline and the following century varied greatly in terms of resources, longevity, and essential character.
• Some of them-such as Awadh in the north and Hyderabad in the south were located in areas that had harboured regional states in the immediate pre-Mughal period and thus could hark back to an older local or regional tradition of state formation.
• Others were states that had a more original character and derived from very specific processes that had taken place in the course of the late 16th and 17th centuries. In particular, many of the post-Mughal states were based on ethnic or sectarian groupings – the Marathas, the Jats, and the Sikhs, for instance-which had no real precedent in Indian history.

KINGDOM OF BENGAL

• Taking advantage of the growing weakness of the central authority Murshid Quli Khan and Alivardi Khan, made Bengal virtually independent.
• Even though Murshid Quli Khan was made Governor of Bengal as late as 1717, he had been its effective ruler since 1700, when he was appointed its Dewan.
• He soon freed himself from central control, though he sent regular tribute to the Emperor.
• He established peace by freeing Bengal of internal and external danger.
• Bengal was now also relatively free of uprisings by zamindars.
• The only three major uprisings during his rule were first by Sitaram Ray, Udai Narayan and Ghulani Muhammad, and then by Shujat Khan, and finally by Najat Khan.
• After defeating them, Murshid Quli Khan gave their zamindaris to his favourite, Ramjivan.
• Murshid Quh Khan died in 1727, and his son-in-law Slmja-ud-din ruled Bengal till 1739.
• In that year, Alivardi Khan deposed and killed Shuja-ud-din’s son, Sarfaraz Khan, and made himself the Nawab.
• These three Nawabs gave Bengal a long period of peace and orderly administration and promoted its trade and industry.
• Mursliid Quli Khan effected economies in the administration and reorganized the finances of Bengal by transferring large parts of jagir lands into khahsah lands by carrying out a fresh revenue settlement, and by introducing the system of revenue-farming.
• Mursliid Quli Khan also granted agricultural loans (taccavi) to the poor cultivators to relieve their distress as well as to enable them to pay land revenue in time. He was thus able to increase the resources of the Bengal Government.
• But the system of revenue-farming led to increased economic pressure on the peasant. Moreover, even though he demanded only the standard revenue and forbade illegal cesses, he collected the revenue from the zamindars and the peasants with utmost cruelty.
• Another result of his reforms was that many of the older zamindars were driven out and their place taken by upstart revenue-farmers.
• Murshid Quli Khan and the succeeding Nawabs gave equal opportunities for employment to Hindus and Muslims.
• They filled the highest civil posts and many of the military posts with Bengalis, most of whom were Hindus.
• In choosing revenue farmers Murshid Quli Khan gave preference to local zamindars and mahajans (money-lenders) who were mainly Hindus. He thus laid the foundations of a new landed aristocracy in Bengal.
• All the three Nawabs recognized that expansion of trade benefited the people and the Government, and, therefore, gave encouragement to all merchants, Indian or foreign.
• They provided for the safety of roads and rivers from thieves and robbers by establishing regular thanas and chowkies.
• They checked private trade by officials and prevented abuses in the customs administration.
• At the same time they made it a point to maintain strict control over the foreign trading companies and their servants and prevented them from abusing their privileges.
• They compelled the servants of the English East India Company to obey the laws of the land and to pay the same customs duties as were being paid by other merchants.
• Alivardi Khan did not permit the English and the French to fortify their factories in Calcutta and Chandranagar.
• The Bengal Nawabs proved, however, to be short-sighted and negligent, by not firmly putting down the increasing tendency of the English.
• Initially they had the power to deal with the Company’s threats, but they continued to believe that a mere trading company could not threaten their power.
• They failed to see that the English Company was no mere company of traders but was the representative of the most aggressive and expansionist colonialism of the time.
• The Nawabs of Bengal neglected to build a strong army and paid a heavy price for it. The army of Murshid Quh Khan consisted of only 2000 cavalry and 4000 infantry.
• Alivardi Khan was constantly troubled by the repeated invasions of the Marathas and, in the end, he had to cede a large part of Orissa to them.
• When, in 1756-57, English East India Company declared war on Siraj-ud-Daulah, the successor of Alivardi, the absence of a strong army contributed much to the victory of the Company.
• The Bengal Nawabs also failed to check the growing corruption among their officials. Even judicial officials, the qazis and muftis, were taking bribes.
• The foreign companies took full advantage of this weakness to undermine official rules and regulations and policies.

AUTONOMOUS KINGDOM OF AVADH

• The founder of the autonomous kingdom of Avadh was Saadat Khan Burhan-ul-Mulk who was appointed Governor of Avadh in 1722.
• He was an extremely bold, energetic, iron-willed, and intelligent person.
• At the time of his appointment, rebellious zamindars had raised their heads everywhere in the province and they refused to pay the land tax, organized their own private armies, erected forts, and defied the Imperial Government.
• Saadat Kha succeeded in suppressing lawlessness and disciplining the big zamindars and thus, increasing the financial resources of his government.
• Most of the defeated zamindars were, however, not displaced. They were usually confirmed in their estates after they had submitted and agreed to pay their dues (land revenue) regularly. Moreover, they continued to be refractory. Whenever the Nawab’s military hold weakened or he was engaged in some other direction, they would rebel, thus weakening the Nawab’s power.
• As Safdar Jang, Saadat Khan’s successor, made out a fresh revenue settlement in 1723. He is said to have improved the lot of the peasant by levying equitable land revenue and by protecting them from oppression by the big zamindars.
• Like the Bengal Nawabs, he too did not discriminate between Hindus and Muslims. Many of his commanders and high officials were Hindus, and he curbed refractory zamindars, chiefs, and nobles irrespective of their religion.
• His troops’ were well-paid, well-armed, and well-trained. His administration was efficient.
• Before his death in 1739, he had become virtually independent and had made the province a hereditary possession.
• He was succeeded by his nephew Safdar Jang, who was simultaneously appointed the wazir of the Empire in 1748 and granted in addition the province of Allahabad.
• Safdar Jang gave a long period of peace to the people of Avadh and Allahabad before his death in 1754.
• He suppressed rebellious zamindars and made an alliance with the Maratha sardars so that his dominion was saved from their incursions.
• He carried on warfare against the Rohelas and the Bangash Pathans. In his war against the Bangash Nawabs in 1750-51, he secured Maratha military help by paying a daily allowance of Rs. 25,000 and Jat support by paying Rs. 15,000 a day.
• Later, he entered into an agreement with the Peshva by which the Peshwa was to help the Mughal Empire against Ahmad Shah Abdali and to protect it from such internal rebels as the Indian Pathans and the Rajput rajas.
• In return the Peshwa was to be paid Rs. 50 lakhs, granted the chauth of the Punjab, Sindh, and several districts of northern India, and made the Governor of Ajmer and Agra. The agreement failed, however, as the Peshwa went over to Safdar Jang’s enemies at Delhi who promised him the governorship of Avadh and Allahabad.
• Safdar Jang also organized an equitable system of justice.
• He too adopted a policy of impartiality in the employment of Hindus and Muslims. The highest post in his Government was held by a Hindu,

MAHARAJA NAWAB RAI

• The prolonged period of peace and of economic prosperity of the nobles under the government of the Nawabs resulted in time in the growth of a distinct Lucknow culture around the Avadh court.
• Lucknow, for long an important city of Avadh, and the seat of the Avadh Nawabs after 1775, soon rivaled Delhi in its patronage of arts and literature. It also developed as an important centre of handicrafts.
• Safdar Jang maintained a very high standard of personal morality. All his life he was devoted to his only wife.
• As a matter of fact all the founders of the three autonomous kingdoms of Hyderabad, Bengal, and Avadh, namely, Nizam-uI-Mulk, Murshid Quli Khan and Alivardi Khan, and Saadat Khan and Safdar Jang, were men of high personal morality.
• Nearly all of them led austere and simple, lives. Their lives give refute the belief that all the leading nobles of the 18th century led extravagant and luxurious lives. It was only in their public and political dealings that they resorted to fraud, intrigue and treachery.

THE SIKHS

• The origins of the Sikhs, a religious group initially formed as a sect within the larger Hindu community, lie in the Punjab in the 15th century.
• The Sikh founder, Guru Nanak (1469-1539), was roughly a contemporary of Babur, and belonged to the Khatri community of scribes and traders.
• From an early career as a scribe for an important noble of the Lodi dynasty, Nanak became a wandering preacher before settling down at Kartarpur in the Punjab at about the time of Babur’s invasion.
• By the time of his death, he had numerous followers, albeit within a limited region, and, like many other religious leaders of the time, founded a fictive lineage (i.e., one not related by blood) of Gurus who succeeded him.
• His immediate successor was Guru Angad, chosen by Nanak before his death. He too was a Khatri, as indeed were all the remaining Gurus, though of various subcastes.
• In practice, the essential teachings of Nanak, collected in the Adi Granth (Punjabi: “First Book”), represented a syncretic melding of elements of Vaishnava devotional Hinduism and Sufi Islam, with a goodly amount of social criticism thrown in.
• No political program is evident in the work, but religious movements in the period had a tendency to assume political overtones, by virtue of the fact that they created bonds of solidarity among their adherents, who could then challenge the authority of the state in some fashion.
• The Sikh challenge to the Mughal state could be seen as prefigured in Nanak’s own critical remarks directed at Babur, but in reality it took almost three-quarters of a century to come to fruition.
• It was in the early 17th century-when under somewhat obscure circumstances Guru Arjun was tortured and killed by Mughal authorities-that the first signs of a major conflict appeared.
• Guru Arjun was accused of abetting a rebel Mughal prince, Khusraw, and, more significantly, found mention in Jahangir’s memoirs as someone who ran a “shop” where religious falsehoods were sold (apparently a reference to the Khatri origins of the Guru).
• His successor, Hargobind (1595-1644), then began the move toward armed assertion by constructing a fortified centre and holding court from the so-called Akal Takht (“Throne of the Timeless One”).
• After a brief imprisonment by the Mughals for these activities, Hargobind was released, and he once more entered into armed conflict with Mughal officials. He was forced to spend the last years of his life in the Rajput principality of Hindur, outside direct Mughal jurisdiction, where he maintained a small military force.
• Under Hargobind’s son Tegh Bahadur, who became ninth Guru in 1664, conflicts with the Mughals once again increased, partly as a result of Tegh Bahadur’s success as a preacher and proselytizer and partly because of the rather orthodox line of Sunni Islam espoused by Aurangzeb.
• In 1675 Tegh Bahadur was captured and executed upon his refusal to accept Islam, thus laying the path for the increased militancy under the last of the Gurus, Gobind Singh (1675-1708).
• It should be stressed that it was the very success of the Sikh Gurus in attracting followers and acquiring temporal power that prompted such a response from the Mughals. However, rather than suppressing Sikhism, the policy of Aurangzeb backfired.
• Guru Gobind Singh assumed all the trappings of a chieftain, gave battle to Mughal forces on more than one occasion, and founded a new centre at Anandpur in 1689.
• His letters also suggest the partial assumption of temporal authority, being termed hukmnamas (loosely, “royal orders”). However, he still chose to negotiate with the Mughals, first with Aurangzeb and then, after the latter’s death, with Bahadur Shah I.
• Ironically, with Gobind Singh’s death, the Sikh threat to Mughal dominance increased. In a further twist, this resulted from the assumption of leadership in the Punjab by Banda Singh Bahadur, a Maratha who had come under the Guru’s influence during the latter’s last days at Nanded in Maharashtra.
• Between 1709 and late 1710 the Sikhs under Banda enjoyed dramatic successes in the sarkars (districts) of Sirhind, Hisar, and Saharanpur, all of them ominously close to Delhi.
• Banda set up a capital at Mukhlispur, issued coins in the names of the Gurus (a particularly bold lèse-majesté), and began to use a seal on his orders even as the Mughals did.
• In late 1710 and 1711 the Mughal forces counter-attacked, and Banda and his forces retreated.
• Expelled from Sirhind, he then moved his operations west into the vicinity of Lahore. Here too he was unsuccessful, and eventually he and his forces were forced to retreat to the fort of Gurdas Nangal. There they surrendered to Mughal forces after a prolonged siege, and Banda was executed in Delhi in 1716.
• This phase of activity is especially important for two reasons.

– First, as distinct from the sporadic militancy exhibited under Hargobind and then Gobind Singh, it was in this period that a full-scale Sikh rebellion against Mughal authority broke out for the first time.
– Second, Banda’s role in the matter itself, which was somewhat enigmatic, lends the affair a curious flavour. Some of Banda’s letters speak of orthodox Islam as an enemy to be rallied against, thus suggesting that the Sikhs at this time were moving somewhat away from their initial orientation as mediators between popular Hinduism and Islam.

• The quelling by Mughal forces of the Sikhs under Banda did not mean an end to Sikh resistance to Mughal claims.
• In the 1720s and ’30s Amritsar emerged as a centre of Sikh activity, partly because of its preeminence as a pilgrimage centre.
• Kapur Singh, the most important of the Sikh leaders of the time, operated from its vicinity and gradually set about consolidating a revenue-cum-military system, based in part on compromises with the Mughal governors of the province.
• Other Sikhs were, however, less willing than Kapur Singh to deal with the Mughal authorities and took the paths of social banditry and raiding.
• These activities served as a damper on the attempts by the Mughal governors of Lahore subah to set up an independent power base for themselves in the region.
• First Abd al-Samad Khan and then his son Zakariyya Khan attempted the twin tracks of conciliation and coercion, but all to little avail. After the latter’s demise in 1745, the balance shifted still further in favour of the Sikh warrior-leaders, such as Jassa Singh Ahluwalia, later the founder of the kingdom of Kapurthala.
• The mushrooming of pockets under the authority of Sikh leaders was thus a feature of the two decades preceding Durrani invasion of the Punjab and took place not merely in the eastern Punjab but in the Bari Doab, not far from Lahore itself.
• A unique centre was yet to emerge, and the end of the line of Gurus with Gobind Singh ensured that spiritual and temporal authority could not be combined in a single person as before.
• Nevertheless, the principal opposition faced by Durrani in his campaigns of the 1750s and ’60s in the Punjab came from the Sikhs, even if the Mughal forces and Marathas played a role of significance on occasion.
• These were sanguinary engagements, which cost the Sikhs many thousands of lives, as the Afghan chroniclers themselves testify.
• Eventually, by the mid-1760s, Sikh authority over Lahore had been established, and the Afghans had been unable to consolidate their early gains.
• Under Ahmad Shah’s successor, Timur Shah (ruled 1772-93), some of the territories and towns that had been taken by the Sikhs (such as Multan) were recovered, and the descendants of Ahmad Shah continued to harbour ambitions in this direction until the end of the century.
• But by the 1770s they were dealing with a confederation of about 60 Sikh chieftains, some of whom founded what were to remain princely states under the British-such as Nabha and Patiala.
• However, rather as in the case of the Marathas, the confederate structure did not mean that there were never differences or conflicts between these chiefdoms. Nevertheless, at least in the face of their major adversary, the Durrani’s clan and its allies, these chiefdoms came together to present a united front.
• The Sikh chiefdoms continued many of the administrative practices initiated by the Mughals.
• The main subordinates of the chiefs were given Jaagir assignments, and the Persianized culture of the Mughal bureaucracy continued to hold sway.
• Unlike the Gurus themselves, who, as has been noted, were exclusively drawn from Khatri stock, the bulk of the Sikh chieftains tended to be of Jat origin. Thus, besides the states set up in other regions, such as Bharatpur, the Jats can be said to have dominated state building in the Punjab in this period as well.
• It was one such chief, Ranjit Singh, grandson of Charhat Singh Shukerchakia, who eventually welded these principalities for a brief time into a larger entity.
• Ranjit Singh’s effective rule lasted four decades, from 1799 to 1839, and was realized in a context already dominated by the growing power of the English East India Company.
• Within 10 years of his death, the British had annexed Punjab, and so this period can be seen as the last gasp of the old-regime polities in India.
• His rise to power was based on superior military force, partly serviced by European mercenaries and by the strategic location of the territories that he had inherited from his father.
• Ranjit Singh’s kingdom combined disparate elements. On the one hand, it represented the culmination of nearly a century of Sikh rebellions against Mughal rule. On the other hand, it was based on intelligent application of the principles of statecraft learned from the Afghans.
• This emerges from the fact that he used as his capital the great trading city of Lahore, which he captured in 1799, in the aftermath of invasions by Shah Zaman, the successor of Timur Shah.
• Having gained control of the trade routes, he imposed monopolies on the trade in salt, grain, and textiles from Kashmir to enhance his revenues. Using the cash he was able to collect by these means, he built up an army of 40,000 cavalry and infantry, and by 1809 he was undisputed master of most of Punjab.
• Over the remaining three decades of his rule, Ranjit Singh continued to consolidate his territories, largely at the expense of Afghan and Rajput, as well as lesser Sikh, chieftains.
• In 1818 he took Multan, and in1819 he made major gains in Kashmir. At the time of his death, the territory that he controlled sat solidly astride the main trade routes extending from north India to Central Asia, Iran, and western Asia.
• In a number of areas, he established tributary relations with chieftains, thus not wholly subverting their authority.
• The model around which the Sikh state was built bears a striking resemblance to that of the Mughals.
• Jagirs remained a crucial form of remuneration for military service, and, in the directly taxed lands, officials bearing the title of kardar (agent) were appointed at the level of a unit called-as elsewhere in Mughal domains-the ta’alluqa (district, today known as taluka) (district).
• However strong the state of Ranjit Singh might have appeared, it was in fact based on a fragile system of alliances, as became apparent soon after his death.
• At the level of the palace, a dispute broke out in the early 1840s between two factions, one supporting Chand Kaur, daughter-in-law of Ranjit Singh, who wished to be regent, and the other supporting Shir Singh.
• But such disputes could scarcely have been the real reason for the collapse of Sikh power within a decade.
• Rather, it would appear that the state created by Ranjit Singh never really made the transition from being a conquering power to being a stable system of alliances between conflicting social groups and regional interests.
• In any event, the process of disintegration was accelerated and given a helping hand by the British between 1845 and 1849.

AREAS AROUND DELHI

Rajput States

• The principal Rajput states took advantage of the growing weakness of Mughal power to virtually free themselves from central control while at the same time increasing their influence in the rest of the Empire.
• In the reigns of Farrukh Siyar and Muhammad Shah the rulers of Amber and Marwar were appointed governors of important Mughal provinces such as Agra, Gujarat, and Malwa.
• The Rajputana states continued to be as divided as before. The biggest among them expanded at the cost of their weaker neighbours, Rajput and non-Rajput.
• Most of the larger Rajput states were constantly involved in petty quarrels and civil wars.
• The internal politics of these states were often characterized by the same type of corruption, intrigue, and treachery as prevailed at the Mughal court. For example, Ajit Singh of Marwar was killed by his own son.
• The most outstanding Rajput ruler of the 18th century was Raja Sawai Jai Singh of Amber (1681-1743).

– He was a distinguished statesman, law-maker, and reformer and a man of scientific temper in an age when Indians were oblivious to scientific progress.
– He founded the city of Jaipur in the territory taken from the Jats and made it a great seat of science and art.
– Jaipur was built upon strictly scientific principles and according to a regular plan. Its broad streets are intersected at right angles.
– Jai Singh was above everything a great astronomer. He erected observatories with accurate and advanced instruments, some of them of his own invention are at Delhi, Jaipur, Ujjain, Varanasi, and Mathura.
– His astronomical observations were remarkably accurate. He drew up a set of tables, entitled Zij-i-Muhammad Shahi, to enable people to make astronomical observations.
– He got ‘Elements of Geometry”, translated into Sanskrit as well as several works on trignometry, and Napier’s work on the construction and use of logarithms.
– Jai Singh was also a social reformer. He tried to enforce a law to reduce the lavish expenditure which a Rajput had to incur on a daughter’s wedding and which often led to infanticide.
– He ruled Jaipur for nearly 44 years from 1699 to 1743.

The Jats

• The Jats, a caste of agriculturists, lived in the region around Delhi, Agra and Mathura.
• Oppression by Mughal officials drove the Jat peasants around Mathura to revolt.
• They revolted under the leadership of their Jat zamindars in 1669 and then again in 1688.
• These revolts were crushed but the area remained disturbed.
• After the death of Aurangzeb, they created disturbances all around Delhi.
• Though originally a peasant uprising, the Jat revolt, led by zamindars soon became predatory.
• They plundered all and sundry, the rich and the poor, the jagirdars and the peasants, the Hindus and the Muslims.
• They took active part in the Court intrigues at Delhi, often changing sides to suit their own advantage.
• The Jat state of Bharatpur was set up by Churaman and Badan Singh.
• The Jat power reached its highest glory under Suraj Mal, who ruled from 1756 to 1763 and who was an extremely able administrator and soldier and a very wise statesman.
• He extended his authority over a large area which extended from the Ganga in the East to Chambal in the South, the province of Agra in the West to the province of Delhi in the North. His state included the districts of Agra, Mathura, Meerut, and Aligarh.

THE SOUTHERN STATES

• In the south several states did make a determined bid in this period to consolidate their power by the use of maritime outlets and principal among these were Travancore in Kerala under Martanda Varma and Rama Varma, and Mysore under Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan.
• These states rose to prominence, however, only in the latter half of the 18th century, or at least after 1740. Before that, the southern Indian scene had been dominated by a group of Muslim notables who had accompanied the Mughal expansion into the region in the 1680s and 90s or else had come in a second wave that followed immediately after 1700.
• Among these notables, many of whom set themselves up as tribute-paying chiefs under Mughal authority, can be counted the relatively petty nawabs (deputies) of the Balaghat, or northern Karnataka (such as Abdul-Rasul Khan of Sira), but there were also far more substantial men, such as the Nizam-ul-Mulk and Said Allah Khan at Arcot.
• The Nizam-ul-Mulk consolidated his position in Hyderabad by the 1740s, whereas the Arcot principality emerged some three decades earlier.
• Neither of these rulers, while establishing dynastic succession, claimed full sovereignty, and thus they continued to cast themselves as representatives of Mughal authority.
• Southern Indian politics in the 1720s emerged, therefore, as a game with many petty players and three formidable ones: the Marathas (both at Thanjavur and elsewhere), the Nizam, and the Arcot (or Karnatak). In the second half of the 18th century, the power of all three of these centres declined.

Hyderabad

• Nizam-ul-Mulk Asaf Jah, the founder of Hyderabad state, was one of the most powerful members at the court of the Mughal Emperor Farrukh Siyar.
• He was entrusted first with the governorship of Awadh, and later given charge of the Deccan.
• As the Mughal governor of the Deccan provinces, Asaf Jah already had full control over its political and financial administration.
• Taking advantage of the turmoil in the Deccan and the competition amongst the court nobility, he gathered power in his hands and became the actual ruler of that region.
• He brought skilled soldiers and administrators from northern India who welcomed the new opportunities in the south and appointed them mansabdars and granted jagirs to them.
• Although he was still a servant of the Mughal emperor, he ruled quite independently without seeking any direction from Delhi or facing any interference.
• The Mughal emperor merely confirmed the decisions already taken by the Nizam.
• The state of Hyderabad was constantly engaged in a struggle against the Marathas to the west and with independent Telugu warrior chiefs (nayakas) of the plateau.
• The ambitions of the Nizam to control the rich textile-producing areas of the Coromandel coast in the east were checked by the British who were becoming increasingly powerful in that region.
• When the British and French took hold over most of India, the Nizams played a delicate game of balance and subterfuge.
• They allied themselves with each side at different times, playing an important role in the wars involving Tipu Sultan, the French, and the British.
• The Nizams eventually won the friendship of the Western invaders without giving up their powers. As a result, Hyderabad was ruled by a Nizam till independence of India, and became the largest princely state of India.

Mysore

• The rise of Mysore to importance dates to the mid-17th century, when rulers of the Vadiyar dynasty, such as Kanthirava Narasaraja and Cikka Deva Raja, fought campaigns to extend Vadiyar control over parts of what is now interior Tamil Nadu (especially Dharmapuri, Salem, and Coimbatore).
• Until the second half of the 18th century, however, Mysore was a landlocked kingdom and dependent therefore on trade and military supplies brought through the ports of the Indian east coast.
• As these ports came increasingly under European control, Mysore’s vulnerability increased.
• A cavalry commander of migrant origin, Hyder Ali, assumed effective power in the kingdom in 1761, reducing the Vadiyars to figureheads and displacing the powerful Kalale family of ministers.
• First Hyder Ali and then, after 1782, his son, Tipu Sultan, made attempts to consolidate Mysore and make it a kingdom with access to not one but both coasts of peninsular India.
• Against the Kodavas, the inhabitants of the upland kingdom of Kodagu (Coorg), they were relatively successful.
• Coastal Karnataka and northern Kerala came under their sway, enabling Tipu to open diplomatic and commercial relations on his own account with the Middle East.
• Tipu’s ambitions apparently greatly exceeded those of his father, and he strove actively to escape the all-pervasive shadow of Mughal suzerainty, as discussed above.
• However, as in the Sikh kingdom of Ranjit Singh, the problem with the Mysore of Hyder and Tipu was their inability to build an internal consensus.
• Their dependence on migrants and mercenaries for both military and fiscal expertise was considerable, and they were always resisted by local chiefs, the so-called Poligars.
• More crucial was the fact that by the 1770s Mysore faced a formidable military adversary in the form of the English East India Company, which did not allow it any breathing room.
• It was the English who denied Mysore access to the relatively rich agricultural lands and ports of the Coromandel coastal plain in eastern India, and, equally as significant, it was at the hands of an English attacking force that Tipu finally was killed in 1799 during the fourth of the Mysore Wars.

Arcot

• The Nawabdom of the Carnatic was established by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, who in 1692 appointed Zulfikhar Ali Khan as the first Nawab of the Carnatic, with his seat at Arcot as a reward for his victory over the Marathas led by Rajaram.
• With the Vijayanagara Empire in serious decline, the Nawabdom of the Carnatic controlled a vast territory south of the Krishna river.
• The Nawab Saadatullah Khan I (1710-1732) moved his court from Gingee to Arcot. His successor Dost Ali (1732-1740) conquered and annexed Madurai in 1736.
• In 1740, the Maratha forces attacked the Nawab, Dost Ali Khan, in the pass of Damalcherry.
• In the war that followed, Dost Ali, one of his sons Hasan Ali, and a number of prominent persons lost their lives. This initial success at once enhanced Maratha prestige in the south.
• From Damalcherry the Marathas proceeded to Arcot, which surrendered to them without much resistance. Chanda Saheb and his son were arrested and sent to Nagpur.
• Chanda Sahib was the son-in-law of the Nawab of Carnatic Dost Ali Khan, under whom he worked as a Dewan.
• Chanda Sahib was an ally of the French and annexed the Madurai Nayak and was declared as the Nawab of Tanjore. He was weakened by constant Maratha attacks and was defeated by Muhammed Ali Khan Wallajah who was allied to Nasir Jung.
• After his forces were defeated by Robert Clive and the Maratha Empire he attempted to recuperate his losses but was beheaded in a mutiny by Hindu subjects in the Tanjore army.
• After 1749 the growing influences of the English and the French and their colonial wars had a huge impact on the Carnatic.
• Nawab Muhammad Ali Khan Wallajah supported the English against the French and Hyder Ali, placing him heavily in debt. As a result he had to surrender much of his territory to the East India Company.
• The thirteenth Nawab, Ghulam Muhammad Ghouse Khan (1825-1855), died without issue, and the British annexed the Carnatic Nawabdom, applying the doctrine of lapse.
• Ghouse Khan’s uncle Azim Jah was created the first Prince of Arcot (Amir-e-Arcot) in 1867 by Queen Victoria, and was given a tax free-pension in perpetuity.

• In the south several states did make a determined bid in this period to consolidate their power by the use of maritime outlets and principal among these were Travancore in Kerala under Martanda Varma and Rama Varma, and Mysore under Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan.
• These states rose to prominence, however, only in the latter half of the 18th century, or at least after 1740. Before that, the southern Indian scene had been dominated by a group of Muslim notables who had accompanied the Mughal expansion into the region in the 1680s and 90s or else had come in a second wave that followed immediately after 1700.
• Among these notables, many of whom set themselves up as tribute-paying chiefs under Mughal authority, can be counted the relatively petty nawabs (deputies) of the Balaghat, or northern Karnataka (such as Abdul-Rasul Khan of Sira), but there were also far more substantial men, such as the Nizam-ul-Mulk and Said Allah Khan at Arcot.
• The Nizam-ul-Mulk consolidated his position in Hyderabad by the 1740s, whereas the Arcot principality emerged some three decades earlier.
• Neither of these rulers, while establishing dynastic succession, claimed full sovereignty, and thus they continued to cast themselves as representatives of Mughal authority.
• Southern Indian politics in the 1720s emerged, therefore, as a game with many petty players and three formidable ones: the Marathas (both at Thanjavur and elsewhere), the Nizam, and the Arcot (or Karnatak). In the second half of the 18th century, the power of all three of these centres declined.
Hyderabad
• Nizam-ul-Mulk Asaf Jah, the founder of Hyderabad state, was one of the most powerful members at the court of the Mughal Emperor Farrukh Siyar.
• He was entrusted first with the governorship of Awadh, and later given charge of the Deccan.
• As the Mughal governor of the Deccan provinces, Asaf Jah already had full control over its political and financial administration.
• Taking advantage of the turmoil in the Deccan and the competition amongst the court nobility, he gathered power in his hands and became the actual ruler of that region.
• He brought skilled soldiers and administrators from northern India who welcomed the new opportunities in the south and appointed them mansabdars and granted jagirs to them.
• Although he was still a servant of the Mughal emperor, he ruled quite independently without seeking any direction from Delhi or facing any interference.
• The Mughal emperor merely confirmed the decisions already taken by the Nizam.
• The state of Hyderabad was constantly engaged in a struggle against the Marathas to the west and with independent Telugu warrior chiefs (nayakas) of the plateau.
• The ambitions of the Nizam to control the rich textile-producing areas of the Coromandel coast in the east were checked by the British who were becoming increasingly powerful in that region.
• When the British and French took hold over most of India, the Nizams played a delicate game of balance and subterfuge.
• They allied themselves with each side at different times, playing an important role in the wars involving Tipu Sultan, the French, and the British.
• The Nizams eventually won the friendship of the Western invaders without giving up their powers. As a result, Hyderabad was ruled by a Nizam till independence of India, and became the largest princely state of India.
Mysore
• The rise of Mysore to importance dates to the mid-17th century, when rulers of the Vadiyar dynasty, such as Kanthirava Narasaraja and Cikka Deva Raja, fought campaigns to extend Vadiyar control over parts of what is now interior Tamil Nadu (especially Dharmapuri, Salem, and Coimbatore).
• Until the second half of the 18th century, however, Mysore was a landlocked kingdom and dependent therefore on trade and military supplies brought through the ports of the Indian east coast.
• As these ports came increasingly under European control, Mysore’s vulnerability increased.
• A cavalry commander of migrant origin, Hyder Ali, assumed effective power in the kingdom in 1761, reducing the Vadiyars to figureheads and displacing the powerful Kalale family of ministers.
• First Hyder Ali and then, after 1782, his son, Tipu Sultan, made attempts to consolidate Mysore and make it a kingdom with access to not one but both coasts of peninsular India.
• Against the Kodavas, the inhabitants of the upland kingdom of Kodagu (Coorg), they were relatively successful.
• Coastal Karnataka and northern Kerala came under their sway, enabling Tipu to open diplomatic and commercial relations on his own account with the Middle East.
• Tipu’s ambitions apparently greatly exceeded those of his father, and he strove actively to escape the all-pervasive shadow of Mughal suzerainty, as discussed above.
• However, as in the Sikh kingdom of Ranjit Singh, the problem with the Mysore of Hyder and Tipu was their inability to build an internal consensus.
• Their dependence on migrants and mercenaries for both military and fiscal expertise was considerable, and they were always resisted by local chiefs, the so-called Poligars.
• More crucial was the fact that by the 1770s Mysore faced a formidable military adversary in the form of the English East India Company, which did not allow it any breathing room.
• It was the English who denied Mysore access to the relatively rich agricultural lands and ports of the Coromandel coastal plain in eastern India, and, equally as significant, it was at the hands of an English attacking force that Tipu finally was killed in 1799 during the fourth of the Mysore Wars.
Arcot
• The Nawabdom of the Carnatic was established by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, who in 1692 appointed Zulfikhar Ali Khan as the first Nawab of the Carnatic, with his seat at Arcot as a reward for his victory over the Marathas led by Rajaram.
• With the Vijayanagara Empire in serious decline, the Nawabdom of the Carnatic controlled a vast territory south of the Krishna river.
• The Nawab Saadatullah Khan I (1710-1732) moved his court from Gingee to Arcot. His successor Dost Ali (1732-1740) conquered and annexed Madurai in 1736.
• In 1740, the Maratha forces attacked the Nawab, Dost Ali Khan, in the pass of Damalcherry.
• In the war that followed, Dost Ali, one of his sons Hasan Ali, and a number of prominent persons lost their lives. This initial success at once enhanced Maratha prestige in the south.
• From Damalcherry the Marathas proceeded to Arcot, which surrendered to them without much resistance. Chanda Saheb and his son were arrested and sent to Nagpur.
• Chanda Sahib was the son-in-law of the Nawab of Carnatic Dost Ali Khan, under whom he worked as a Dewan.
• Chanda Sahib was an ally of the French and annexed the Madurai Nayak and was declared as the Nawab of Tanjore. He was weakened by constant Maratha attacks and was defeated by Muhammed Ali Khan Wallajah who was allied to Nasir Jung.
• After his forces were defeated by Robert Clive and the Maratha Empire he attempted to recuperate his losses but was beheaded in a mutiny by Hindu subjects in the Tanjore army.
• After 1749 the growing influences of the English and the French and their colonial wars had a huge impact on the Carnatic.
• Nawab Muhammad Ali Khan Wallajah supported the English against the French and Hyder Ali, placing him heavily in debt. As a result he had to surrender much of his territory to the East India Company.
• The thirteenth Nawab, Ghulam Muhammad Ghouse Khan (1825-1855), died without issue, and the British annexed the Carnatic Nawabdom, applying the doctrine of lapse.
• Ghouse Khan’s uncle Azim Jah was created the first Prince of Arcot (Amir-e-Arcot) in 1867 by Queen Victoria, and was given a tax free-pension in perpetuity.

Marathas

• The emergence and growth of the Maratha state during the 17th century was an important episode in the history of India.
• The Territory which includes modern state of Bombay Konkan, Kandesh, Berar, part of Madhya Pradesh, and part of Hyderabad state was Maratha state.

• The physical environment of the Maratha country shaped certain peculiar qualities among the Marathas. The mountainous region and dense forests made them brave soldiers and adopt guerilla tactics. The Marathas built a number of forts on the mountains.
• The spread of the Bhakti movement in Maharashtra inculcated a spirit of religious unity among them. The spiritual leaders like Tukaram, Ramdas, Vaman Pandit and Eknath fostered social unity.
• The political unity was conferred by Shivaji. The Marathas held important positions in the administrative and military systems of Deccan Sultanates of Bijapur and Ahmadnagar. There were a number of influential Maratha families such as the Mores and Nimbalkers. But the credit of establishing a powerful Maratha state goes to Shahji Bhonsle and his son Shivaji.

SHIVAJI (1627-1680)

• Shivaji was born at Shivner in 1627.
• His father was Shahji Bhonsle and mother Jija Bai.
• He inherited the jagir of Poona from his father in 1637.
• After the death of his guardian, Dadaji Kondadev in 1647, Shivaji assumed full charge of his jagir. Even before that he conquered Raigarh, Kondana and Torna from the ruler of Bijapur.
• He captured Javli from a Maratha chief, Chanda Rao More. This made him the master of Mavala region.
• In 1657, he attacked the Bijapur kingdom and captured a number of hill forts in the Konkan region.
• The Sultan of Bijapur sent Afzal Khan against Shivaji, but Afzal Khan was murdered by Shivaji in 1659 in a daring manner.
• The Mughal emperor Aurangazeb sent the Mughal governor of the Deccan, Shaista Khan against Shivaji. Shivaji suffered a defeat at the hands of the Mughal forces and lost Poona. But Shivaji once again made a bold attack on Shaista Khan’s military camp at Poona in 1663, killed his son and wounded Khan. This daring attack affected the prestige of Khan and he was recalled by Aurangazeb.
• In 1664, Shivaji attacked Surat, the chief port of the Mughals and plundered it. This time Aurangazeb sent Raja Jai Singh of Amber to fight against Shivaji. He made elaborate preparations and succeeded in besieging the Purander fort where Shivaji lodged his family and treasure.
• Shivaji opened negotiations with Jai Singh and the Treaty of Purander was signed in 1665. According to the treaty, Shivaji had to surrender 23 forts to the Mughals out of 35 forts held by him. The remaining 12 forts were to be left to Shivaji on condition of service and loyalty to Mughal empire.
• On the other hand, the Mughals recognized the right of Shivaji to hold certain parts of the Bijapur kingdom. As Shivaji asked to exempt him from personal service to the Mughals, his minor son Shambaji was granted a mansab of 5000.
• Shivaji visited Agra in 1666 but he was imprisoned there, but, he managed to escape from prison and made military preparations and renewed his wars against the Mughals.
• Surat was plundered by him for the second time in 1670. He also captured all his lost territories by his conquests.
• In 1674 Shivaji crowned himself at Raigarh and assumed the title Chatrapathi.
• He led an expedition into the Carnatic region and captured Ginjee and Vellore. After his return from this expedition, Shivaji died in 1680.

Shivaji’s administration

• Shivaji had laid the foundation of a sound system of administration and his administrative system was largely borrowed from the administrative practices of the Deccan state.
• Like all other medieval rulers, Shivaji was a despot with all powers concentrated in his hands. He possessed all executive and legislative power.
• Shivaji was a great organizer and constructive civilian administrator. The one of the novelty of Shivajis administration was the introduction of Maratha language as the state language.

(1) Central Administration

• The king was at the helm of the affairs.
• The administration was divided into eight departments headed by ministers who are sometimes called Ashtapradhan.
• The eight ministers were:

(i) Peshwa who looked after the finances and general administration.
(ii) Sari-Naubat who was the Senapati.
(iii) Majumdar looked after the accounts.
(iv) Waqai navis looked after the intelligence, post and household affairs.
(v) Surnavis or Chitnis looked after official correspondence.
(vi) Dabir looked after foreign affairs.
(vii) Nyayadhish looked after justice.
(viii) Pandit Rao looked after ecclesiastical affairs.

• The ashtapradhan was not a creation of Shivaji and many of these officers like Peshwa, Majumdar, Waqai navis, Dabir and Surnavis had existed under the Deccani rulers also.
• All the members of the asthapradhan except Pandit Rao and Nyaydhish were asked to lead military campaigns.
• Under Shivaji these offices were neither hereditary nor permanent and held the office at the pleasure of the king. They were also frequently transferred.
• Each of the ashtapradhan was assisted by eight assistants diwan, Majumdar, Fadnis, Sabnis; Karkhanis, Chitnis, Jamadar and Potnis. Chitnis dealt with all diplomatic correspondences and wrote all royal letters.
• The Fadnis used to respond to the letters of commanders of the forts.
• The Potnis looked after the income and expenditure of the royal treasury.

(ii) Provincial and Local Administration

• The provincial administration was also organized on the Deccani and Mughal system.
• All the provincial units already existed under the Deccani rulers. Shivaji reorganized and in certain cases renamed them.
• The provinces were known as Prants. The Prants were under the charge of Subedar.
• Over a number of Subedar there were Sarsubedar to control and supervise the work of Subedar.
• Smaller than Prant were Tarfs which were headed by a Havaldar.
• Under Tarfs there were Mauzas or villages which were the lowest unit of administration.
• At the level of village, Kulkarni used to keep accounts and maintained records while Patil had legal and policing power.
• At the level of Pargana, Deshpande used to keep account and maintain records while Deshmukh had legal and policing powers.
• The Police officer in rural area was called Faujdar and in urban area was called Kotwal.
• The Maratha polity did not have unified civilian-cum-military rank.
• Under the Marathas performance based Brahmin elites manned the central bureaucracy and the local administration. In this capacity they were called Kamvishdar who enjoyed wide powers of tax assessment and collection. They adjudicated cases, provided information about local conditions and kept records. Later on, the British District collector was modelled on this Maratha officer only.

Army

• Cavalry and infantry constituted the primary part of the army.
• The Paga cavalrymen were called the Bargirs. They were provided horses by the state while the Silahdars purchased their armies and horses themselves.
• The Paga cavalry was well organized. Twenty five horsemen formed a unit which was placed under a Havildar.
• Shivaji preferred to give cash salaries to the regular soldiers, though some time the chief received revenue grants.
• Strict disciplines was maintained in the army. The plunder taken by each soldiers during campaign was strictly accounted for in the army organization of Shivaji.
• Shivaji maintained a navy as well. The navy was divided into two parts and each part was commanded by Darive Nayak and Mai Nayak respectively.

Finance and Revenue

• The revenue system seems to have been patterned on the system of Malik Ambar land revenue; Trade Tax etc. were the primary source of the fixed income of Shivaji.
• But income from these sources was not sufficient to meet the expenditure of the state. Therefore Shivaji collected the Chauth and Sardeshmukhi from the territory which was either under his enemies or under his own influence.
• The chauth was 1/4 part of the income of the particular territory while the Sardeshmukhi was 1/10. Shivaji collected these taxes simply by force of his army. These taxes constituted primary source of the income of Shivaji and after wards helped in the extension of the power and territory of the Marathas.
• The revenue system of Shivaji was Rytowari in which the state kept direct contact with peasants.
• Shivaji mostly avoided the system of assigning Jagir to his officers and whenever he assigned Jagir to them, the right of collecting the revenue was kept with state officials.

Successors of Shivaji

• There ensued a war of succession after the death of Shivaji between his sons, Shambaji and Rajaram and Shambaji emerged victorious but later he was captured and executed by the Mughals.
• Rajaram succeeded the throne but the Mughals made him to flee to the Ginjee fort. He died at Satara.
• Rajaram was succeeded by his minor son Shivaji II with his mother Tara Bai as regent.
• The next ruler was Shahu in whose reign the Peshwas rose to power.

THE PESHWAS (1713-1818)

Balaji Viswanath (1713-1720)

• Balaji Viswanath began his career as a small revenue official and became Peshwa in 1713.
• As Peshwa, he made his position the most important and powerful as well as hereditary.
• He played a crucial role in the civil war and finally made Shahu as the Maratha ruler.
• He sought the support of all Maratha leaders for Shahu.
• In 1719, Balaji Viswanath got certain rights from the then Mughal emperor, Farukh Siyar.

– First, the Mughal emperor recognized Shahu as the Maratha king.
– Second, he allowed Shahu to collect Chauth and Sardeshmukhi from the six Mughal provinces of the Deccan including the Carnatic and Mysore.

Baji Rao I (1720-1740)

• Baji Rao was the eldest son of Balaji Viswanath and he succeeded his father as Peshwa at the age young of twenty.
• The Maratha power reached its zenith under him.
• He initiated the system of confederacy among the Maratha chiefs. Under this system, each Maratha chief was assigned a territory which could be administered autonomously.
• As a result, many Maratha families became prominent and established their authority in different parts of India.
• They were the Gaekwad at Baroda, the Bhonsle at Nagpur, the Holkars at Indore, the Scindias at Gwalior, and the Peshwas at Poona.

Balaji Baji Rao (1740-1761)

• Balaji Baji Rao succeeded his father as Peshwa at the young age of nineteen.
• The Maratha king Shahu died in 1749 without issue. His nominated successor Ramraja was imprisoned by the Peshwa Balaji Baji Rao at Satara.
• The full control of the Maratha kingdom came under the Peshwa.
• Peshwa entered into an agreement with the Mughal Emperor in 1752. According to it, the Peshwa gave assurance to the Mughal Emperor that he would protect the Mughal Empire from internal and external enemies for which the Chauth of the northwest provinces and the total revenue of the Agra and Ajmer provinces would be collected by the Marathas.
• Thus when Ahmad Shah Abdali invaded India, it became the responsibility of the Marathas to protect India. The Marathas fought very bravely against Ahmad Shah Abdali in the third Battle of Panipat in 1761. But they got defeated. Many Maratha leaders and thousands of soldiers died in this battle.
• Balaji Baji Rao also died on hearing the news of defeat at the battle of Panipat. Also, this battle gave a deadly blow to the Maratha power. Thereafter, the Maratha confederacy weakened due to internal conflicts among the Maratha chiefs.

The Bhonsles

• The line at Nagpur Bhonsles was subordinate to the Satara rulers.
• A crucial figure from this line was Raghuji Bhonsle (ruled 1727-55), who was responsible for the Maratha incursions on Bengal and Bihar in the 1740s and early 1750s.
• The relations of his successors, Janoji, Sabaji, and Mudhoji, with the Peshwas and the Satara line of Bhonsles were varying, and it is in this sense that these domains can be regarded as only loosely confederated, rather than tightly bound together.
• Other subordinate rulers who emerged under the overarching umbrella provided by the Satara ruler and his Peshwa were equally somewhat opportunistic in their use of politics.

The Gaikwads

• The Gaikwads, gathered prominence in the 1720. Initially they were subordinate not only to the Bhonsles but also to the powerful Dabhade family.
• However, it was only after the death of Sahu, when the power of the Peshwas was further enhanced, that the position of the Gaikwads truly improved.
• By the early 1750s, their rights on large portion of the revenues of Gujarat were recognized by the Peshwa.
• The expulsion of the Mughal governor of the Gujarat province from his capital of Ahmadabad in 1752 set the seal on the process.
• The Gaikwads preferred, however, to establish their capital in Baroda, causing realignment in the network of trade and consumption in the area.
• The rule at Baroda of Damaji (1768) was followed by a period of some turmoil.
• The Gaikwads still remained partly dependent on Pune and the Peshwa, especially to intervene in moments of succession crisis.
• The eventual successor of Damaji, Fateh Singh (ruled 1771- 89), did not remain allied to the Peshwa for long in the late 1770s and early 1780s, and chose to negotiate a settlement with the English East India Company, which eventually led to increased British interference in his affairs.
• By 1800, the British rather than the Peshwa were the final arbiters in determining succession among the Gaikwads, who became subordinate rulers under them in the nineteenth century.

The Holkars

• Initially the Holkars had very little political power. However by 1730s their chief Malhar Rao Holkar consolidated his position. He was granted a large share of the chauth collection in Malwa, eastern Gujarat, and Khandesh.
• Within a few years, Malhar Rao consolidated his own principality at Indore, from which his successors controlled important trade routes as well as the crucial trading centre of Burhanpur.
• After Malhar Rao, control of the dynastic fortunes fell largely to his son’s widow, Ahalya Bai, who ruled from 1765 to 1794 and brought Holkar power to great glory.

The Sindhias

• The Sindhias carved a prominent place for themselves in North Indian politics in the decades following the third battle of Panipat (1761).
• The Sindhias were based largely in central India, first at Ujjain, and later (from the last quarter of the 18th century) in Gwalior.
• During the long reign of Mahadaji Sindhia (1761-94) family’s fortunes were truly consolidated.
• Mahadaji, proved an effective and innovative military commander. He employed a large number of European soldiers in his force. His power grew rapidly after 1770.
• He managed to make substantial inroads into North India that had been weakened by Afghan attacks.
• He intervened with some effect in the Mughal court during the reign of Shah Alam II. The Mughal king made him the “deputy regent” of his affairs in the mid-1780s.
• His shadow fell not only across the provinces of Delhi and Agra but also on Rajasthan and Gujarat, making him the most formidable Maratha leader of the era.
• The officials of the East India Company were very cautious in dealing with him. His relations with the acting Peshwa, Nana Fadnavis at Pune were fraught with tension.
• Eventually, the momentum generated by Mahadaji could not be maintained by his successor Daulat Rao Sindhia (1794-1827), who was defeated by the British and forced by treaty in 1803 to surrender his territories both to the north and to the west.
• The careers of some of these potentates, especially Mahadaji Sindhia, illustrate the potency of Mughal symbols even in the phase of Mughal decline. For instance, after recapturing Gwalior from the British, Mahadaji took care to have his control of the town sanctioned.

After the decline of the Mughal Empire, the Marathas emerged as a great power in India but they could not succeed in preventing the establishment of British power in India. The important causes for the downfall were that there was lack of unity among the Maratha chiefs like Holkar, Scindia and Bhonsle. Also, the superiority of the British army and fighting methods ultimately won.

Society in 18th Century

• With the decline of Mughal central authority, the period between 1707 and 1761 witnessed a resurgence of regional identity that promoted both political and economic decentralization.
• In due course, the enrichment of the regions emboldened local power-holders to take up arms against the central authority.
• However, parochial goals prevented these rebels from consolidating their interests into an effective challenge to the empire. They relied on support from kinsfolk, peasants, and smaller zamindars.
• In conditions of conflict and the absence of coordination among the local elements, the Mughal nobles assumed the role of mediating between Delhi and the localities; as the imperial group weakened further, the nobles found themselves virtually independent, if collectively so, controlling the centre from outside.
• The necessity of emphasizing imperial symbols was inherent in the kind of power politics that emerged.
• As each of the contenders in the regions, in proportion to his strength, looked for and seized opportunities to establish his dominance over the others in the neighbourhood, each also apprehended and resisted any such attempt by the others.
• They all needed for their spoliations a kind of legitimacy, which was conveniently available in the long-accepted authority of the Mughal emperor. They had no fear in collectively accepting the symbolic hegemony of the Mughal centre, which had come to coexist with their ambitions.
ECONOMIC CONDITION IN 18TH CENTURY

• The Indian villages were largely self-sufficient and imported little from outside and the means of communication were backward.
• Indian agriculture was technically backward and stagnant. The techniques of production had remained stationary for centuries.
• The peasant tried to make up for technical backwardness by working very hard. Even though it was his produce that supported the rest of the society, their condition was miserably inadequate.
• The state, the zamindars, the jagirdars, and the revenue-farmers tried to extract the maximum amount from them. This was as true of the Mughal state as of the Maratha or Sikh chiefs or other successors of the Mughal state.
• Since India was on the whole self-sufficient in handicrafts and agricultural products, it did not import foreign goods on a large scale.
• On the other hand, its industrial and agricultural products had a steady market abroad.
• Consequently, it exported more than it imported and its trade was balanced by import of silver and gold. In fact, India was known as a sink of precious metals.
• Extensive trade within the country and between India and other countries of Asia and Europe was carried on under the Mughals.
• India imported pearls, raw silk, wool, dates, dried fruits, and rose water from the Persian Gulf region; coffee, gold, drugs, and honey from Arabia; tea, sugar, porcelain, and silk from China; gold, musk and woolen cloth from Tibet; tin from Singapore; spices, perfumes, arrack, and sugar from the Indonesian islands; ivory and drugs from Africa; and woolen cloth, metals such as copper, iron, and lead, and paper from Europe.
• India’s most important article of export was cotton textiles which were famous all over the world for their excellence and were in demand everywhere. India also exported raw silk and silk fabrics, hardware, indigo, saltpetre, opium, rice, wheat, sugar, pepper and other spices, precious stones, and drugs.
• As the old commercial centres of Surat, Masulipatnam and Dhaka degenerated, colonial port cities like Bombay, Madras and Calcutta centres of prominence.
• But the decline of the Mughal capitals of Delhi and Agra was offset by the rise of regional capitals, including Lucknow, Hyderabad, the various Maratha cities, and Seringapatam.
• The level of urbanization was higher in 1800 than a century before. What had changed in the urban centres was the relative balance of power between rulers and merchants. In some instances, commercial and financial magnets were arrogating to themselves the powers of the state.
• Constant warfare and disruption of law and order in many areas during the 18th century harmed the country’s internal trade and disrupted its foreign trade to some extent and in some directions.
• Moreover, with the rise of autonomous provincial regimes and innumerable local chiefs, the number of custom houses or chowkies grew by leaps and bounds.
• Every petty or large ruler tried to increase his income by imposing heavy customs duties on goods entering or passing through his territories. All these factors had an injurious effect on trade though much less than generally believed.
• The impoverishment of the nobles, who were the largest consumers of luxury products in which trade was conducted, also injured internal trade.
• Political factors which hurt trade also adversely affected urban industries. Many prosperous cities, centres of flourishing industry, were sacked and devastated.
• Delhi was plundered by Nadir Shah; Lahore, Delhi and Mathura by Ahmad Shah Abdali; Agra by the Jats; Surat and other cities of Gujarat and the Deccan by Maratha chiefs; Sarhind by the Sikhs, and so on.
• Similarly, artisans catering to the needs of the feudal class and the court suffered as the fortunes of their patrons declined. The decline of internal and foreign trade also hit them hard in some parts of the country.
• Nevertheless, some industries in other parts of the country gained as a result of expansion in trade with Europe due to the activities of the European trading companies.
• Even so India remained a land of extensive manufactures. Indian artisans still enjoyed fame all the world over for their skill.
• The important centres of textile industry during this period were Dacca and Murshidabad in Bengal, Patna in Bihar, Surat, Ahmedabad and Broach in Gujarat, Chanderi in Madhya Pradesh, Burhanpur in Maharashtra, Jaunpur, Varanasi, Lucknow, and Agra in U.P., Multan and Lahore in the Punjab, Masulipatam, Aurangabad, Chicacole and Vishakhapatnam in Andhra, Bangalore in Mysore, and Coimbatore and Madurai in Madras.
• Kashmir was a centre of woolen manufactures. Ship-building industry flourished in Maharashtra, Andhra, and Bengal.
• Writing about the great skill of Indians in this respect, an English observer wrote: “in ship-building they probably taught the English far more than they learnt from them.”

SOCIAL AND CULTURAL LIFE

• The society was divided into multi layered identities on the basis of religion, region, tribe, language, class and caste.
• Caste was the central feature of the social life of the Hindus. Apart from the four varnas, Hindus were divided into numerous castes (Jatis) which differed in their nature from place to place.
• The caste system rigidly divided people and permanently fixed their place in the social scale and was the major divisive force and element of disintegration in the India of 18th century. It often split Hindus living in the same village or region into many social atoms.
• It was, of course, possible for a person to acquire a higher social status by acquisition of high office or power, as did the Holkar family in the I8th century. Sometimes, though not often, an entire caste would succeed in raising itself in the caste hierarchy.
• Muslims were no less divided by considerations of caste, race, tribe, and status, even though their religion enjoined social equality.
• The Shia and Sunni nobles were sometimes at loggerheads on account of their religious differences.
• The Irani, Afghan, Turani, and Hindustani Muslim nobles and officials often stood apart from each other.
• A large number of Hindus converted to Islam carried their caste into the new religion and observed its distinctions, though not as rigidly as before.
• Moreover, the Sharif Muslims consisting of nobles, scholars, priests, and army officers, looked down upon the Ajlaf Muslims or the lower class Muslims in a manner similar to that adopted by the higher caste Hindus towards the lower caste Hindus.
• A friendly relation between Hindus and Muslims was a very healthy feature of life in 18th century India. Even though the nobles and chiefs of the time fought each other incessantly, their fights and their alliances were seldom based on distinctions of religion. In other words, their politics were essentially secular.
• All people, high or low, respected one another’s religion and a spirit of tolerance, even harmony, prevailed. This was particularly true of the common people in the villages and towns who fully shared one another’s joys and sorrows, irrespective of religious affiliations.
• Hindus and Muslims cooperated in non-religious spheres such as social life and cultural affairs. The evolution of a composite Hindu-Muslim culture, and of common ways and attitudes, continued unchecked.
• Hindu writers often wrote in Persian while Muslim writers wrote in Hindi, Bengali, and other vernaculars, often dealing with subjects of Hindu social life and religion, such as Radha and Krishna, Sita and Ram, and Nal and Damyanti.
• The development of Urdu language and literature provided a new meeting ground between Hindus and Muslims.
• Even in the religious sphere, the mutual influence and respect that had been developing in the last few centuries as a result of the spread of the Bhakti movement among Hindus and Sufism among Muslims continued to grow.
• A large number of Hindus worshipped Muslim saints and many Muslims showed equal veneration for Hindu gods and saints.
• Muslim rulers, nobles, and commoners paricipated in the Hindu festivals such as Holi, Diwali, and Durga Puja, just as Hindus participated in the Muharram processions.
• It is noteworthy that Raja Ram Mohan Roy, was influenced in an equal measure by the Hindu and the Islamic philosophical and religious systems.
• People of one region had far greater cultural synthesis irrespective of religion than people following the same religion spread over different regions. People living in the villages also tended to have a different pattern of social and cultural life than that of the town dwellers.
• The family system in the 18th century India was primarily patriarchal, that is, the family was dominated by the senior male member and inheritance was through the male line.
• In Kerala, however, the family was matrilineal.
• Women were subjected to nearly complete male control. They were expected to live as mothers and wives only, though in these roles they were shown a great deal of respect and honour. Even during war and anarchy women were seldom molested and were treated with respect.
• But the women, of the time possessed little individuality of their own. There were also exceptions to this rule like Ahilya Bai administered Indore with great success from 1766 to 1796. Many other Hindu and Muslim ladies played important roles in 18th century politics.
• While women of the upper classes were not supposed to work outside their homes, peasant women usually worked in the fields. A women of the poorer classes often worked outside their homes to supplement the family income.
• The purdah was common mostly among the higher classes in the North. It was not practiced in the South.
• Women were expected to marry only once in her life-time. The custom of early marriage prevailed all over the country. Sometimes children were married when they were only three or four years of age.
• Among the upper classes, the evil customs of incurring heavy expenses on marriages and of giving dowry to the bride prevailed. The evil of dowry was especially widespread in Bengal and Rajputana. In Maharashtra it was curbed to some extent by the energetic steps taken by the Peshwas.
• Two great social evils of the 18th century India, apart from the caste system, were the custom of sati and the condition of widows.
• Sati was mostly prevalent in Rajputana, Bengal and other parts of northern India. In the South it was uncommon and the Marathas did not encourage it. Even in Rajputana and Bengal it was practiced only by the families of rajas, chiefs, big zamindars and upper castes.
• Widows belonging to the higher classes ould not remarry, though in some regions and in some castes, few examples, among non-Brahmins in Maharashtra, the Jats and people of the hilly regions of the North, widow remarriage was quite common.
• In general, she was expected to renounce all the pleasures of the earth and to serve selflessly the members of her husband’s or her brother’s family, depending on where she spent the remaining years of her life.
• Raja Sawai Jai Singh of Amber and the Maratha General Prashuram Bhau tried to promote widow remarriage but failed.
• Cultural continuity with the preceding centuries was, of course, maintained but at the same time culture remained wholly traditionalist.
• Cultural activities of the time were mostly financed by the Royal Court, rulers, and nobles and chiefs whose impoverishment led to their gradual neglect.
• The most rapid decline occurred precisely in those branches of arts which depended on the patronage of kings, princes, and nobles.
• This was true most of all of Mughal architecture and painting. Many of the painters of the Mughal school migrated to provincial courts and flourished at Hyderabad, Lucknow, Kashmir, and Patna.
• At the same time new schools of painting were born and achieved distinction. The paintings of Kangra and Rajput Schools revealed new vitality and taste.
• In the field of architecture, the Imambara of Lucknow reveals proficiency in technique but decadence in architectural taste. The city of Jaipur and its buildings give an example of continuing vigour.
• Music continued to develop and flourish in the 18th century. Significant progress was made in this field in the reign of Muhammad Shah.
• The main weakness of Indian culture lay in the field of science. Throughout the 18th century India remained far behind the West in science and technology.
• The Indians who had in earlier ages made vital contributions in the fields of mathematics and natural sciences, had been neglecting the sciences for several centuries.
• The Indians remained almost wholly ignorant of the scientific, cultural, political, and economic achievements of the West.
• The 18th century Indian rulers did not show any interest in things western except in weapons of war and techniques of military training.
• This weakness in the realm of science was to a large extent responsible for the total subjugation of India by the most advanced country of the time.

LANGUAGE AND EDUCATION

• Indian languages lost its touch with life and became decorative, artificial, mechanical and traditional.
• Its pessimism reflected the prevailing sense of despair and cynicism, while its content reflected the impoverishment of the spiritual life of its patrons, the feudal nobles and kings.
• A noteworthy feature of the literary life of the 18th century was the spread of Urdu language and the vigorous growth of Urdu poetry.
• Urdu gradually became the medium of social intercourse among the upper classes of northern India. While Urdu poetry shared, in common the weaknesses of the contemporary literature in other Indian languages, it produced brilliant poets like Mir, Sauda, Nazir, and in the 19th century, the great genius Mirza Ghalib.
• Similarly, there was a revival of Malayalam literature, especially under the patronage of the Travancore rulers, Martanda Varma and Rama Varma.
• One of the great poets of Kerala, Kunchan Nambiar, who wrote popular poetry in the language of daily usage, lived at this time.
• The 18th century Kerala also witnessed the full development of Kathakali literature, drama and dance. The Padmanabhan Palace with its remarkable architecture and mural paintings was also constructed in the 18th century.
• Tayaumanavar (1706-44) was one of the best exponents of sittar poetry in Tamil in line with other sitar poets, he protested against the abuses of temple-nile and the caste system.
• In Assam, literature developed under the patronage of the Ahom kings.
• Dayaram, cue of the great lyricists of Gujarat, wrote during the second half of the 18th century.
• Heer Ranjha, the famous romantic epic in Punjabi, was composed-at this time by Waris Shah.
• For Sindhi literature, the 18th century was a period of enormous achievement. Shah Abdul Latif composed his famous collection of poems, Shah Jo Risalo. Sachal and Sami were the other great Sindhi poets of the century.
• Education was not completely neglected in 18th century India, but could not change according to the requirements of the time.
• It was traditional and out of touch with the rapid developments in the West. The curriculum was confined to literature, languages, law, religion, philosophy and logic and excluded the study of physical and natural sciences, technology and geography.
• Nor did it concern itself with a factual and rational study of society. In all fields original thought was discouraged and reliance placed on ancient learning.
• The centers of higher education were spread all over the country and were usually financed by nawabs, rajas, and rich zamindars.
• Interestingly enough, the average literacy was not less than what it was under the British later.
• Though the standard of primary education was inadequate by modern standards, it sufficed for the limited purposes of those days.
• A very pleasant aspect of education then was that the teachers enjoyed high prestige in the community.
• A bad feature of it was that girls were seldom given education, though some women of the higher classes were an exception.

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