Timur in the Political Tradition and Historiography of Mughal India: IRFAN HABIB

Timur in the Political Tradition and Historiography of Mughal India: IRFAN HABIB

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AMU Library, the Last Afghan King & Fāzil-i Hanswi

My father, Saiyid Sibtul Hasan (black achkan) with the last king of Afghanistan King Zaheer Shah. The photograph was taken in 1955 when the later was at Aligarh Muslim University.

In the middle is Mr Shahid Sherwani, the then incharge of Urdu section of the AMU Central Library known as Maulana Azad Library. He later succeeded my father as the Incharge Manuscript Section.

The prestigious manuscript section of the Azad Library (for which the library is known throughout the world) was in right earnest ‘established’ during the vice-chancellorship of Dr. Zakir Husain (who ended up ultimately as the President of India) and through the endeavours of my father Late Saiyid Sibtul Hasan, popularly known as Fazil-i Hanswi.

Azhar Manzil

Me standing before Azhar Manzil: the house of my birth

Azhar Manzil, the house where I was born. It was a cosy 7 room with a central hall structure with a large courtyard built on the banks of a big pond (tālāb) known as ‘Hāthī Dūbā‘ [Elephant sinking pond] at its back and right side. In front was a large tract of vacant land in the middle of which was an half built kothi, the ‘bhūt bangla’ about which it was rumoured that it was inhabited by ghosts and genies who never allowed any one to build it. It was owned by many who endeavoured to complete it but before they could, they passed away. Its last owner was a certain Mr Loknath Marwaha of Ambala who ultimately sold the plot and the bhūt bangla to a group who ultimately built the present National Colony there. The imāmbāra and mosque [Imamia Hall and Masjid] of the Colony is built where this cursed structure was once located. Now it is a congested overpopulated area with no trace of the large pond!

Google image of the area where Azhar Manzil once stood

Azhar Manzil itself was an evacuee property which was taken on rent by my father in 1954. It is from this house that my father started the majālis of the first ten days of Muharram and started the Julūs-i Shab-i Āshūr ( Alam procession of 9th Muharram). This was the first Muharram Ashra held openly and the first Muharram procession of Aligarh post Independence.

Azākhāna at our residence: Similar Azakhāna was there in Azhar Manzil

In 1961 I was born in the same house. My “Sunnat” and “Bismillah” ceremonies were also organised and conducted by Ayatullah Amini, the celebrated author of Al-Ghadeer, who was visiting us, in the same house.

Me at one of the ceremonies at Azhar Manzil with my sisters and aunts. Also seen besides me is Razmi Rizwan Husain, my eldest sister’s son

I still have hazy but fond memories of this house. I distinctly remember it’s “hall” lined all around by my father’s books and equipped with walnut wood furniture. During the Muharrams, they would be removed to the side rooms to create a large carpeted area to hold the majālis recited by my father. A side room was reserved year round as the azākhāna where I remember every nauchandi jumerāt (new moon Thursday of every month) as well as other occasion nauha would be recited by my mother and sisters. Another thing which stays with me is the whistling of the hot loo blowing through the high raushandāns the Hall during the long and hot summer days.

I also have memories of the house being surrounded by flood waters for days on end during the rainy season. I remember sitting on the window sill facing the huge pond with rains falling day in and day out. Though I don’t personally recall it, but I am told that a small inflatable boat during such days would ferry my father across when he had to go or return from his office. I however remember sitting on the window and looking down at the swirling waters below, big almost yellow toads jumping around and their loud croaking. In the distance the washermen pounding cloths on stone slabs put in a slanting position half submerged in the tālāb and singing melodiously “Yā Allah! De bālāi!” [O God! Raise our status!” : in those days I used to be confused as to why they were asking for “bālāi” (fresh cream!). Also in my remembrance is the vast ground in front of the house where I could ride my tricycle.

Just at a short distance from our house, adjacent to the bhūt bangla was Hamid Lodge, the sprawling red brick mansion of Rāja Hāmid Ali Khan. I remember Hamid Sahib as a slim old man with a long flowing white beard, a la Dumbledore, and always wearing a sherwani with a sleek walking stick (chhari) in hand. He always almost shouted while speaking and was a daily visitor to our house.

Another neighbour and usual visitor to our house was Professor Muhibbul Hasan who lived in Hyder Villa just beyond Hamid Lodge towards Amīr Nishān Chauraha. He along with his four sons, Mujībul Hasan (who later on was to marry one of my sisters, Najmul Hasan, Mushirul Hasan and Najibul Hasan, and daughter Salma would meet us almost daily: either we would go to their house or they would come over. I used to call him Khālu. His wife (Khāla) was a friend of my mother. I still remember her for her typical eastern UP dialect.

The other neighbours were a refugee Sikh family, some Sindhis and a large joint family of tailors having their shops in the nearby market! One of them, Hasīnuddin, had a confectioners store at Amīr Nishān: in fact one of the proper shops there. Beyond the scenic Hāthi Dūba were the dense mango orchards of Noor Manzil and other havelis facing Marris Road: now with the replacing of the Hāthi Dūba tālab, these are all separate and distant areas with no connection whatsoever!

Raja Sahib Mahmudabad, Abba, Prof Muhibbul Hasan & Maharajkumar Mahmudabad at Azhar Manzil,

The last year of mine in this house was when I joined Abdullah Nursery for 6 months. I specially remember an incident: once, my sisters, with whom I used to go to Abdullah Nursery were not going so my mother asked our milkman to take me on his bicycle to school. On reaching the school somebody enquired: “Is he your father?” I remember making it a big issue on returning home. I never ever then went to school with him or anyone else, except my sisters!

I returned to this house for the snap posted on the top, at a time when we had started living in a University accommodation…the photo on tricycle posted below is however of the time when we used to live there. The dilapidated structure behind me is the “bhut bangla” where now the Imāmbāra National Colony is located.

It is now a congested dreary area with narrow lanes and ugly houses. The Azhar Manzil too has disappeared and replaced by a multi-storey housing complex. Hamid Lodge survives, and the Hyder Villa has been sold and replaced by a multi-storey monster. No trace of the old grandeur of the area remain!

I ride a tricycle in the grounds before Azhar Manzil. The structure behind is the Bhūt Bangla, now rebuild as Imāmbara and mosque

• Syed Ali Nadeem Rezavi

Aurangzeb and the Deccan 1689-1707

After the annexation of Golcunda and Bijapur and after the execution of Shambhaji, the problem before Aurangzeb was that the Mughal army lacked a centralized target: where to strike as there was resistance faced at every place.

Bhimsen in his Nuskha-i Dilkushā says that every small garhi (Fortress) offered resistance to the Mughal army in Golcunda, Bijapur as well as in the territories of the Marathas.

Raja Ram took up the leadership of the Marathas after Shambhaji. It was at this stage after 1689 that the Maratha resistance was converted into a popular resistance against the Mughals. It became a mass movement.

Letter and seal of Raja Rām

In the rural areas in the territories of the erstwhile kingdoms of Bijapur and Golcunda, and in the Maratha territories, the local aristocracy, the zamindars and deshmukhs, refused to accept the over lordship of the Mughals unless an army was deputed against them.

Qila’gīrī vs. Mulkgīrī

It was only then that they would surrender their forts. Thus now Aurangzeb systematically started the campaigns against the Marathas for capturing the forts one after the other in the Deccan: And the Mughals were traditionally weak in capturing the forts.

All the energies of Aurangzeb were spent in capturing the forts and subduing the petty landlords or in compelling them to accept the over lordship of the Mughals. Bhimsen says that if three months were taken to capture the fort and the Mughal army left, the Marathas would recapture it back within ten days!

The Mughals followed the policy of qilagiri, while the Marathas practiced mulkgiri says Bhimsen.

Bhimsen was extremely critical of this policy of Aurangzeb. This was a vicious cycle: the nobles who had their jagirs in the Deccan could not realize the full amount due to the Maratha depradations. And when they could not realize the full amount from jagirs, they could not maintain their full contingents. From where was the money to come? They did not cut on their luxuries but compromised on their tābīnān (contingent retainers). This adverse effect on the contingents further tempted the Marathas to attack.

Thus the vicious cycle went on and ultimately involved the whole empire, with the result that the nobles, their households and haram, the eunuchs and pet animals were all taken by the Marathas. This is what Bhimsen criticizes and not the imposition of Jizya!

Thus between 1689-1707 the Maratha movement acquired a new dimension. It became a popular resistance against the Mughals.

That is why although Raja Ram was not a very effective man; there was a re-emergence of Maratha power under him.

The last Decades of Aurangzeb

Raja Ram was succeeded by Tara Bai, who had to look after and feed two children, and yet the struggle continued and in the last 15 years of Aurangzeb’s reign the Maratha re-emergence was such that it completely paralysed the Mughal administration in the Deccan.

Aurangzeb conceded his failure in one of his letters, but the will to crush the Marathas never abandoned him. Until the last days of his life he never hesitated to lead an expedition.

In the Deccan he lost the war but not the will: he was fighting against heavy odds.

The situation had reached a point that the Marathas became so impertinent and audacious to attack the Imperial camp when Aurangzeb fell ill. They could be repulsed by Zulfiqar Khan and Dalpat Bundela after great difficulty.

Reasons of Aurangzeb’s Failure

Why did Aurangzeb fail in the Deccan?

One of the reasons was that the Deccani Hindus and Muslims alike considered the Mughals as aggressors and were not prepared to reconcile with the Mughal rule. This was especially true for the Marathas. All the attempts made by Aurangzeb to incorporate the Marathas into the Mughal aristocracy, so that they could become the firm allies of the empire as the Rajputs had been in the north failed.

This was so as the Maratha society was not a clan based society like the Rajputs. In Maratha society, the individual was the basis of society.

Secondly, the heart of the Mughal aristocracy was not in the Deccan. All the top Mughal officials and generals were convinced of the failure of the Deccan Policy of Aurangzeb and were thus not co-operating with Aurangzeb as was absolutely essential.

We have the evidence that towards the close of Aurangzeb’s reign, i.e. 1690 – 1707, when the Marathas re-emerged, two groups were formed at the court: One consisted of Ghaziuddin Khan, Hamid Khan, Nizam ul Mulk and Muhammad Amin Khan. All of them were Turanis by family and group. This group headed by Ghaziuddin Khan had stakes in the Deccan and wanted to carve out an independent principality at the cost of the Mughal Empire in the Deccan after the death of Aurangzeb by suppressing the Marathas.

The other group consisted of Asad Khan, Zulfiqar Khan, Ram Singh Hada and Dalpat Bundela. This may also be defined as racial-cum-personal group. The approach of this group was also the same, i.e., the carving of the Mughal Empire but with the cooperation of the Mughals.

End was the same, means different. The rationale is that both the groups were convinced that the Deccan policy was a failure.

The third reason was that the full cooperation of the nobility was lacking for Aurangzeb.

Then again, the main weakness of the Mughals was that they could not face the guerrilla attacks of the Deccanis. It was against this tactics and popular support in 1690-1707 that vast military resources of the Mughals were used.

It has also been argued by certain historians that it was a mistake on the part of Aurangzeb to annex Golcunda and Bijapur as these states were the bulwark against the expansion of the Marathas.

By annexing these two places, Aurangzeb removed the buffer state between himself and the Marathas, thus strengthening the Marathas further.

Jadunath Sarkar gives an effective answer to this contention. Neither Golcunda nor Bijapur was in a position to suppress Marathas more effectively than Aurangzeb. So if the Marathas had to be suppressed effectively, Golcunda and Bijapur were to be annexed as they helped the Marathas.

Apart from all this, there was also lack of scientific and technological advancement, as a result of which there was hardly any difference between the Mughals and the Maratha armies. Numerical superiority lay with the Marathas so the earlier advantage which the Mughals had in the Deccan was now not available.

The Marathas had the further advantage because they were fighting in their own homeland and were adopting a new technique of warfare which has been defined by Persian historians as qazzafi and by Deccanis as bargi giri and by the English as the guerrilla tactics.

There was also a feeling of regionalism. That was a historical legacy. North was different from the south and the people of the south. This resulted in the demonization of the people of the north. Thus the Deccanis were not prepared to accept the Mughal rule.

It is a mistake to consider the Maratha movement as a National uprising because India was not a nation in the 17th Cent. The concept of nationhood was not known.

It is again a mistake to consider that it was the manifestation of Hindu feelings or a Hindu reaction against the so-called anti-Hindu policies of Aurangzeb. Hindus and Muslims alike (Marathas and Afghans) opposed the Mughal rule.

It was because of these reasons that in spite of all possible efforts made by the emperor, and in spite of the fact that Aurangzeb was an ideal monarch: courageous, cool and calculating, free from vices of the upper class of the 17th century society. In spite of all these personal qualities Auranzeb was a failure in the Deccan.

Aurangzeb and the Annexation of Bijapur and Golcunda

After the death of Muhammad Adil Shah in 1656 decline had set in the state of Bijapur.

The Rootless Deccani Aristocracy

The military oligarchy of Bijapur mainly consisted of outsiders, namely the Afghans, the Abbysinians, the Mahdavi Sayyids who formed the ruling group of the aristocracy at the court of Bijapur and these three powerful groups never became the part and parcel of the local population. They maintained their racial and cultural identity by marrying amongst themselves. Although they had no intention of returning back to their native homelands in the foreign countries, yet at the same time they could not be considered completely assimilated in the Deccan society: and that was the weakness of the state of Bijapur.

Thus the aristocracy of Bijapur was a saleable commodity and Aurangzeb fully utilized this opportunity to bribe it to desert their masters. The annexation of Bijapur was not the work of military bulwark. It was achieved much more by Mughal gold than by the Mughal sword.

Operation Against & Siege of Golcunda and Bijāpūr: Victory through Bribes

By now Aurangzeb was convinced that the Maratha menace could not be eliminated unless Bijapur and Golcunda were annexed to the Mughal Empire, as these states were providing material help to Sambhaji and the Marathas. Thus in 1685 the siege operations against Bijapur were vigorously started and in order to eliminate the mutual jealousies of the Mughal nobles and to encourage them to work hard, Aurangzeb himself supervised the siege operations. In these operations the Bijapuri nobles were bribed by the emperor on promise of offering high ranks.

A number of leading nobles like the Afghans and others were lured and they deserted their master and thus after 14 months of siege operations in which both sides suffered heavy losses, the Bijapuris capitulated in 1686. The boy king, Sikandar Adil Shah was arrested and the Adil Shahi dynasty came to an end. Aurangzeb visited the palaces and after a few days returned to his base-camp at Islampuri. After the annexation of Bijapur the next target was Golcunda.

Aurangzeb turned his attention towards Qutb Shah and in spite the fact that he was ready to accept the over lordship of the Mughals and was prepared to accept all the conditions, Aurangzeb insisted on complete annexation of the kingdom.

Thus in 1686 Golcunda was besieged, the army of Golcunda put up stiff resistance and the Mughal soldiers had to face extreme difficulties due to the inner strength of the fort.

Aurangzeb applied the same tactics of bribing the generals. The nobles were offered high mansabs to desert their master. A large number of nobles deserted Qutb Shah and joined Aurangzeb and were awarded with high posts. Aurangzeb even succeeded in bribing the qiledar of Golcunda who opened the gate and the Mughal army entered the fort. Abdul Razzaq Lari, the commander-in-chief of the army of Golcunda single-handedly fought against the advancing Mughal forces in the fort declaring that atleast one life should be spent in the defence of the fort! He was badly wounded and became unconscious and after the capture of the fort he was arrested. Aurangzeb asked him to be treated well. When he regained consciousness, Aurangzeb asked him to join the Mughal side; he refused by saying ‘I can’t change my masters’.

Thus it was only by the treachery of the bulk of Golcunda nobility that the fort fell in the Mughal hands in 1687 and the Qutb Shahi dynasty came to an end. We have already seen that two years later Sambhaji was captured and the Marathas smashed and Aurangzeb emerged as the undisputed master of the sub-continent.

Golcunda Fort

Consequences of Annexations

The most important aspect of the capture of Bijapur and Golcunda were the consequences. The annexation of these states was not exclusively the result of military pressure, but was also the result of the Mughal gold.

Tempting offers of high mansab to leading commanders of these states to desert their masters resulted in their defeat.

Result was that after the fall of these two states, there was an influx of Deccani nobility in the Mughal aristocracy which created an imbalance in the traditional composition of the Mughal nobility. These nobles coming from Golcunda and Bijapur were recruited at the cost of the khanazads who considered the Mughal Empire as their preserve but now their cases were not being considered sympathetically for the award of mansabs due to political compulsions and the inclusion of the Deccanis and the Marathas. Thus there was a growing dissatisfaction of the khanazads towards Aurangzeb. Both Turanis and Rajputs suffered as most of the Deccani nobles were Iranis. Two new elements were also included in the Mughal aristocracy – the Marathas and the Afghans, who now became important. Resources were limited while both these disturbers to peace were added to by Aurangzeb rahmatullah.

This contention is challenged by J.F.Richards (Mughal administration of Golcunda) on the ground that if the Deccanis were recruited in the Mughal nobility, the area of the state of Golcunda and Bijapur was also added to the Mughal Empire. Thus if new elements from Decan were added so was a vast territory. So there should have been no financial difficulty as it was compensated by the addition of new territory.

Answer to the objection is that it was not the question of theoretic position or addition to the jamadami. It is the actual position which is in question.

While the claims increased by 136 % as a result of addition of the claims of the Deccanis as compared to the year prior to direct involvement of Aurangzeb in the Deccan, the enhancement of jamādamāmi was only 30%

Thus there was an imbalance even in the theoretical position: the burden on the exchequer was much more higher than the income of these two states.

Practically the situation was much worse than this: Aurangzeb had only succeeded in displacing the kings and annexing the territories, he could not realize the revenues. All the Adil Shahi and Qutb Shahi qiledars thought themselves to be semi-independent and military might was to be used to rein them in. the result was that the actual realization from these states was negligible.

This meant that the expenditure was to be met from the traditional Mughal treasury.

“From where gold-coins were collected, now not even the copper coin was forthcoming” informs Bhimsen.

Thus we have the evidence that the actual collection from Bijapur and Golcunda was negligible.

The Khānazāds were dissatisfied as the Deccanis had been included at their cost. Khafi Khan says that their claims were being ignored by Aurangzeb. The Deccanis too were dis-satisfied as tall claims made before their desertion could not be fulfilled as the resources were now not available.

So a new dilemma was created: their necessary conditions were not satisfied and thus they too started deserting Aurangzeb.

Thus there was an imbalance in the composition of the Mughal nobility. Thus these two reasons helped in the dis-integration of the empire.

The second consequence was that after annexation of Golcunda and Bijapur, theoretically the capitals were annexed and the kings were arrested. The areas under the states of Golcunda and Bijapur were never annexed and Aurangzeb had to lead military expeditions against small landlords to compel them to accept the overlordship of the Mughals. This marching of the Mughal army from one place to another in pursuit of petty chieftains exhausted them. The energy of Aurangzeb was bogged down completely and thus the functioning of the administration especially in the north was adversely affected.

The third consequence of the annexations was that the Empire became too large and too unwieldy to be governed by one centre; and that too at the stage when the Deccan was not fully pacified and reconciled to the Mughal rule.

Aurangzeb spent the rest of his life in the Deccan and this problem of the Deccan consumed all the resources of the empire and yet the result was not satisfactory. The nobles were sick of fighting in the Deccan and the weakness crept into the body politic of the Mughal Empire.

The administration became weak and corruption rampant. All these things were reported to Aurangzeb and he was also an eye-witness to all these corrupt practices and he accepted his helpness towards the end of his reign. So there is some substance in the observations made by Sir Jadunath Sarkar that the Spanish Ulcer ruined Napolean and Deccan Ulcer ruined Aurangzeb.

•••

Aurangzeb’s march to the Deccan, Sambhāji (1680-89) and Maratha Defeat by the Mughals

When Prince Akbar took shelter at the court of Sambhaji, a serious situation arose: That was the presence of Prince Akbar in the Deccan supported by three powerful states, viz., Golcunda, Bijapur and the Marathas, created a situation as a result of which at least the safety and the territorial integrity of Mughal Deccan was in danger.

To send an army, sufficiently large to fight on three fronts, meant the committing of the bulk of military resources to the Deccan. Aurangzeb had resisted this so far. Now if the bulk of the Mughal military resources were to be committed to the Deccan, who should lead the expedition? No person was to be trusted and only a prince could be sent. And what was the guarantee that that prince too would not revolt as Akbar?

So the emperor decided to head the army himself. And once the emperor decided to leave for the Deccan with the declared objective of punishing Sambhaji, Golcunda and Bijapur, it was an outright Imperialistic and Forward policy towards the Deccan. Once that policy was adopted, it had far reaching consequences not only for the Deccan, but also for the Mughal Empire.

Death of Shivaji & Rise of Sambhaji

Another important event which took place in 1680 was the death of Shivaji. After his death, when Sambhaji became the raja, on mere suspicions he started executing the Maratha Sardars and it was often with great difficulty that he succeeded in consolidating his hold over the kingdom. Sambhaji was very arrogant and vulgar. Just to annoy Aurangzeb, he also humiliated Muslim women and as such incurred the displeasure of the emperor.

Attitude of Bijapur & Golkonda

Thus now the final decision was taken and the emperor left for the Deccan. After reaching Burhanpur, Aurangzeb put a proposal before the rulers of Golcunda and Bijapur to cooperate with him in the process of punishing Sambhaji. Apparently these two powers agreed but then there was a basic contradiction in the situation:

It was that both these rulers of Golcunda and Bijapur knew that Sambhaji and the Maratha state was a buffer-state between them and the Mughals and it was due to the existence of the Maratha state that to some extent they were protected from the Mughal invasion. And they knew well that if the Maratha state ceased to exist, Golcunda and Bijapur would be exposed to the Mughal danger.

Both the rulers were convinced that the ultimate aim of the Mughals was the final annexation of the entire Deccan.

So because of the political and administrative considerations, all three tended to support each other against the Mughals. They were faced with the question of survival.

Secondly, there was also the feeling of regionalism which compelled all the three states to unite against the Mughals.

So not withstanding the declared policy of Golcunda and Bijapur, it was essential for them to see that Marathas existed as a buffer state and a whole-hearted support to the Mughals was an impossible proposition.

War with the Deccanis

After reaching Burhanpur and after assuming that the two southern states would assist him against the Marathas, Aurangzeb initially concentrated his entire force against Sambhaji. The result was that obviously the Marathas could not withstand the Mughals in the open field and withdrew. It was at this juncture that the rulers of Golcunda and Bijapur decided to support Sambhaji against the Mughals.

Due to this attitude of these states, Aurangzeb was also convinced that unless these states were finally annexed to the Mughal Empire, the Maratha menace would not be eliminated.

Now he directed his attention towards Bijapur, the strongest state in the Deccan.

A doubt has been raised by historians that it was a mistake on the part of Aurangzeb to annex Golcunda and Bijapur as these two were the surest guarantee to exercise effective check on the expansionist policy of the Marathas.

By annexing Golcunda and Bijapur Aurangzeb removed that check.

Sir Jadunath Sarkar has answered this question and is of the opinion that neither Golcunda nor Bijapur was in a position of applying check on the Marathas as both of them were not sufficiently powerful to do so.

Attitude of Sambhaji

On his part Sambhaji adopted a very rash policy towards his nobles and also towards the Mughals. In January 1682, he plundered the suburbs of Burhanpur and escaped with immense booty.

Khan-i Jahan Kokaltash tried to intercept him but failed. It was widely believed that it was Khan-i Jahan Kokaltash that had been bribed by the Maratha leader.

In March 1682 Aurangzeb reached Burhanpur. For about one year Aurangzeb was not following a very clear-cut and vigorous policy. He was the prisoner of indecision and suspected every noble and his sons and had not yet recovered from the rebellion of Prince Akbar.

Prince Akbar was staying at the court of Sambhaji along with Durgadas Rathore and was persuading Sambhaji to provide him sufficient resources, men and material both, to organize a rebellion in the North while Aurangzeb was staying in the south.

Obviously this demand of Prince Akbar could not be fulfilled as Sambhaji was not prepared to take the risk of exposing the Maratha army to Mughal onslaughts in the north. Akbar thus got disappointed and fled to Persia.

After a year or so, Aurangzeb started a grand offensive against the the Marathas.

The Mughal Offensive

Shah Alam, the eldest son of the emperor was deputed: he occupied the western coast, plundered a number of towns and captured a few strongholds of the Marathas. But then in this campaign, Shah Alam incurred the hostility of the Portuguese as a result of which his army had to face famine conditions. Supplies could not be sent by sea as the Portuguese were hostile. Thus he withdrew from Konkan and came to Ahmadnagar.

Aurangzeb made repeated attempts to persuade Bijapuris to cooperate in his struggle against Sambhaji. There is direct evidence to suggest that they contrarily assisted the Marathas.

Thus Aurangzeb had to despatch two armies, one against Bijapur, and one against Golcunda so that no reinforcements may reach the Marathas through them.

While all this was happening in the Deccan (1684-88), Sambhaji instead of helping the states of Golcunda and Bijapur, as would have been the case had Shivaji been alive, spent his time in merriment and even neglected the state affairs.

Kailash and Sambhaji: Reaction of Shirkes

The entire power during this time was concentrated in the hands of Sambhaji’s advisor, Kailash. Due to this the Shirke family, which was the leading Maratha family in the Deccan, revolted against him. Kailash shut himself up in the fort. Sambhaji came out with his forces and defeated the Shirke family. About 20 leading Marathas who were suspected to be sympathisers of the Shirkes were executed.

After this affair ended, Sambhaji sent his army towards Raigadh and himself went to Sangeswar, a place near Ratnagiri which was thought to be a safe haven from Mughal incursions as it was surrounded by jungles, broken land and high mountains. At this place Kailash had constructed pleasure gardens and palaces for Sambhaji who thus spent his time in pleasure.

Qazi Nizam and Attack on Sambhaji

In the meanwhile, Qazi Nizam, who was given the title Muqarrab Khan by Aurangzeb, and who was originally an official of Qutb Shah of Golcunda and who had joined the Mughals during the siege of Golcunda and was now enjoying a mansab of 6000/6000, being familiar with the geographical details of the region, had been ordered by Aurangzeb to besiege the fort of Khelna. On the way to Khelna, he got the intelligence that Sambhaji was staying at Sangeswar accompanied by only a handful of guards. With 2000 picked cavalry, Muqarrab Khan made a dash for Sangeswar.

The route was so difficult due to high mountains and forests that his army had to undergo untold hardships. But as a contemporary historian remarked that in spite all difficulties, he reached the place with ‘the speed of lightening’ and covered 90 miles in two days!

Spies of Sambhaji brought the news that a Mughal army was advancing, but Sambhaji shrugged it off as an imagination of the spies and ordered their tongues to be cut off. Within two days, along with a band of 300 soldiers, Muqarrab Khan fell upon the Marathas: the rest of the Mughal army had been left far behind as they could not keep pace with them.

During the ensuing battle both Sambhaji and Kavi Kailash were captured and throughout the Deccan this news of the arrest of the two spread like wild fire.

Death of Sambhaji

Both the arrested Marathas were dressed as buffoons and paraded at the fort of Bahadurgarh and presented before Aurangzeb who held a full durbar for the occasion.

When Aurangzeb saw the two presented before him dressed as buffoons, he came down from the thrown and offered two rak’ats of nafil-i shukrana the thanksgiving prayers for such a victory. Kailash addressed Sambhaji that even Aurangzeb could not sit on the throne in his presence!

A section of the nobility at the court was in favour of purchasing the friendship of Sambhaji and persuading him to ally himself firmly with the Mughals and favoured offering him that his life could be spared if he peacefully handed over all the forts to the Mughals and appoint Mughal officers in them.

Ruhullah Khan also offered that he be in return awarded a mansab in return for his capitulation. But Sambhaji, being extremely bitter due to the humiliation suffered abused the emperor in return.

His tongue was cut off and both he and his minister were executed. Thus end came to Sambhaji in 1689.

Zenith & Decline

Thus by 1689 Aurangzeb was now the undisputed master of the entire subcontinent: in 1686 Golcunda, in 1687 Bijapur and now in 1689 Sambhaji. The year 1689 was the crowning year as far as Aurangzeb was concerned. Apparently it appeared that every barrier had been crossed, no king was left to be deposed or arrested, no capital to be captured and no regular army to be defeated!

Asad Khan, the wazir, told him that all the three objects had been achieved by 1689 and the imperial prestige had been vindicated. Aurangzeb was now adviced by him to go north and leave the work of consolidation to the nobles. Aurangzeb rejected the offer on the grounds that his officers were lazy and will not assert themselves in the process of consolidation and decided to take up the job himself.

In reality the year 1689 was not the year when everything had been gained. Perhaps it was the year when intrinsically the process of the beginning of the end started!

•••

Everything is an Illusion!

Adi Shankara (died 820 AD) was a philosopher and theologian from India who consolidated the doctrine of Advaita Vedanta. He is credited with unifying and establishing the main currents of thought in Hinduism. One of the key philosophies which he taught was of ‘māyā‘ (illusion).

It was a fundamental concept in Hindu philosophy, notably in the Advaita (Nondualist) school of Vedanta. Māyā originally denoted the magic power with which a god can make human beings believe in what turns out to be an illusion. By extension, it later came to mean the powerful force that creates the cosmic illusion that the phenomenal world is real.

Shankara says everything is illusory. Whatsoever you are seeing, hearing, feeling, all is illusion. Nothing is real because the real cannot be contacted by senses. You are hearing me and I am seeing you hearing me: it may be just a dream, and there is no way how to judge whether it is a dream or not. I may be just dreaming that you are here listening to me. How am I to know that this is real and not a dream? There is no way.

Shankara says with senses there is no possibility to know whether the thing confronting you is real or unreal. And if there is no possibility to know whether it is real or unreal, Shankara calls it Māyā.

For the Nondualists, māyā is thus that cosmic force that presents the infinite brahman (the supreme being) as the finite phenomenal world. Māyā is reflected on the individual level by human ignorance (ajnana / agyān) of the real nature of the self, which is mistaken for the empirical ego but which is in reality identical with brahman.

One day Adi Shankara was giving a sermon and expounding his philosophy. One of his opponents was standing nearby listening. As soon as Shankara started talking about ‘māyā’, the man shouted at the top of his voice: “Run, a wild bull is charging!”

On hearing this the assembled panic stricken crowd started running. In the melee Adi Shankar too could be seen running to save himself. On seeing him run, the man laughed and again called out: “Shankara! Why are you running if everything is māyā? Why are you afraid of an illusionary bull?”

Shankara stopped running and quietly replied: “My running was also a māyā – illusion.”

The man was speechless. Adi Shankara had outwitted him!

Babur’s Gardens at Agra

One of the major contributions of Babur to India was the introduction of new types of gardens, the chahārbāgh (four-quartered garden) which were typical to the Central Asia & Timurid lands.

A number of chahārbāghs were constructed by Babur after his victory at Panipat. The first of his gardens, which he ordered to be laid out was at Panipat. This garden (the only one directly attributable to him) along with a mosque and a stepwell were ordered to be constructed as a thanksgiving after his victory over Ibrahim Lodi in 1526. Today only the mosque survives. The garden has generally been lost, what continues is its name: the whole muhalla is known as Kabuli Bagh.

Another chahārbāgh was laid down by Babur after his victory over Rana Sangram Singh at the Battle of Khanwa. The garden along with a stepwell were laid out near the banks of the lake of Sikri. This garden was named ‘Bāgh-i Fath’ – the Garden of Victory. Remains of the garden and the baoli survive (see my book, Fathpur Sikri Revisited, OUP, 2013).

Only visible as traces on the ground (discernible from atop the hillock), this garden had a bārādari (which survives) on the four sides of which (indicated by vegetative growth) were water channels lined with walkways (khiyābān).

A māhipusht (fish-scaled) water chute (ābshār) was also founded embedded in the ground towards the east.

The step-well related with this garden and ordered to be simultaneously built by Babur also survives.

This happened in 1527. Soon after, Babur conquered and took over the Lodi Fort and city of Agra, and ordered the construction of some of his edifices. These were,once again in the form of gardens and baolis, within the fort and outside it.

As the left bank of Yamuna was all barren and rugged, Babur ordered the construction of a series of chahārbāghs.

One of them later got the sobriquet, “Aram Bagh”, due to Babur’s body was temporarily laid to rest in it before being transported to Kabul, where he rests now. This information is provided to us by his daughter Gulbadan Bano Begum in her Ahwal-i Humayun Badshah, also known as Humayun Nama. It was obviously on the eastern (left) bank, but where was it actually located, we are not informed.

The local popular memory however identifies it with a garden now popularly known as “Ram Bagh”, possibly a corruption of “Aram Bagh”. A map of Agra made in 1720 and lodged in City Palace Museum, Jaipur (see Chandramani Singh) actually identifies it with a garden on the eastern bank. (See photo 1 of this blog).

However, the garden as it stands now was built (or rebuilt) during the reign of Jahangir by Nurjahan Begum. Jahangir records it in his Tuzuk. This garden was named Bāgh-i Nūr Afshān. Ebba Koch has in one of her papers published in Facets of Indian Art, proved that the structures belong to the period of Jahangir.

During the course of my surveys I was also able to find the painted figures of Jesus & Mary in one of the Pavilions as depicted in on of the Jahangiri miniature which depicts Nurjahan welcoming and entertaining Jahangir in her garden.

Another garden founded by Babur at Agra was the Bāgh-i Zahra, which sometimes is confused by Bāgh-i Jahānāra built during Shāhjahān’s reign. A bastion still standing on the left bank of Yamuna is identified with this garden.

The Arām Bāgh, now surviving in the form of Nurjahan’s Bāgh-i Nūr Afshan remains as the best example of Babur’s gardens in the Agra region.