The Moghul Dynasty changed India into one of the greatest empires. It was stretched out over almost two centuries. During this rule, the emperors turned an un-unified nation into a prosperous country. I will discuss the rulers of the Moghul Dynasty and how they changed Indian society. More specifically I will talk about Akbar and what he did for the government and religious institutions and the role of women during this period.
The Moghul Dynasty ruled India from 1527 to 1857. The founder of the Moghuls was Babur, who was born in 1483 of a ruler in a small Asian state, Ferghana. At the young age of eleven, Babur inherited the throne from his father. After a long period of hardship and grave danger, Babur detained the Afghanistan throne in 1504. Twenty years later, Babur and 12,000 soldiers embarked to India. He and his men battled against Afghan King of Delhi and triumphed, even though they were outnumbered. Babur was only the emperor of India for four years before his untimely death in 1530. The next emperor was Babur’s son, Humayun, who reigned from 1530 to 1556. Humayun showed no relation to Babur in any way. He was an alcoholic and was addicted to opium. The only use Humayun was to India was that he was the father of Akbar, the greatest ruler of India.
Akbar reigned from 1557 to 1605, like his grandfather, he took the throne at a very young age. Even though he never learned to read, he was very interested in learning. He would have others read to him from his books that he collected. Akbar was most famously known for his acceptance of all religions. He died in 1605, but not before building a secure government that he worked diligently to create. After the next two emperors, Jahangir and Shan Jahan, two good rulers, Aurengzeb followed them. Aurengzeb overthrew his father Shan Jahan in 1627. He killed his brothers and imprisoned his father. He persecuted the Hindus and re-established taxes on the Hindus. These discriminatory acts made the Hindus revolt, leaving the empire fragile. This was the beginning of the end of The Great Moghul Empire. The situation only worsened. Years and years of internal fighting between the Hindus and Muslim weakened the government so much that in 1739, the Persians invaded and annex Delhi, giving this period the name “Time of Troubles.” It was only with Britain’s help that order was reinstated. Great Britain got rid removed the Moghul emperor, ending the Moghul Dynasty in 1857.
Akbar created an absolute government, which controlled everything, and he was in charge. His word was law, which was the Moghul theory. He commanded the military and believed that a strong nation has a strong military. He required all officials sign up for the military, but didn’t create a navy. The Indians lived by a caste system. There were four groups; the priests and teachers (Brahmins), the warriors and administrators, the merchants, artisans and farmers and the sharecroppers/ farm workers (sudras). The initial two owned land, demanded services from sudras and were privileged in religion and education. Akbar had great, loyal subjects, who he hand picked based on ability and merit. According to custom, the emperor was to present himself in public on a daily basis. So almost every morning, Akbar gathered the public to receive petitions and gave orders. He was even known to put on disguises and go into the marketplace to listen to people’s points of view.
For most citizens the payment of land taxes was their only contact to the government. The principle function of the government was the collection of taxes, maintaining order, enforcing the law, and the creation and uptake of roads and bridges. The government did not care about irrigation and water concerns; relief for those is trouble and didn’t even reduce taxes during times of famine. A comprehensive land register, when one documents everything on one’s land, is the foundation of taxation. Taxation of the land was about a third of India’s gross product.
If Akbar were to be remembered for only one accomplishment, it would have been his religious tolerance. Over ¾ of Indians were Hindus, and the others were mainly Muslims. Akbar allowed each person to believe in whatever religion they wanted. He didn’t tax subjects due to religious preference. He decided to build the Hall of Worship at the capital at that time, Fatehpur Sikri. This is where he invited scholars from different religions to come and discuss religion and philosophy. After discussing the different religions, he took the best parts from Hinduism and Islam and made a state religion called Divine Faith.
The main idea Divine Faith that Akbar believed in was to teach people to pursue virtue. From Islam, he borrowed the idea of one God and no priesthood and borrowed many Hindu ceremonies. Akbar’s religion didn’t succeed; the Hindus honored him for his intentions. But on the other hand, the orthodox Muslims begrudged the Emperors religious ideas. Aurengzeb was the emperor to actually abolish religious tolerance and started to persecute Hindus. He was very against Hindus and was an advocate for Muslims. He cruelly persecuted Hindus, restored taxes on Hindus and destroyed their temples. This started the Hindus to revolt, leading to bad relations between the two groups. War after war broke out between these two groups, which slowly weakened the government and people so much that it eventually led to the fall of the Moghul Dynasty.
Women played a major role in the daily lives during the Moghul Dynasty. Their living conditions always varied on religion and class, but they continually deteriorated. The Islamic purdah, a law requiring Muslim women to be veiled and not reveal most of their skin, was one of the many impediments on the Moghul women. Hinduism didn’t require purdah, but upper- caste members regularly dressed in veils. Moghul women excelled as weavers. Each women, not matter her caste, would spin thread for her use. As stated in Women In World History by Sarah Shaver Hughes, “ India’s women hand spinners could also have bragged of their part in creating a textile industry that for a time, before industrialization, seemed to clothe the world.” (60) Every part of India surged ahead in some kind of textile making, mostly, thanks to women. At one point of time, it was estimated that Bengal produced over two million pounds of silk a year.
Muslim and Hindu women also had certain duties they had to fill and had to follow. The differences between Muslim and Hindus when marrying are; Muslim women were allowed to inherit land property, but the Hindu forbade it. Muslim men could have several wives, and the Hindu was monogamous. Muslim allowed divorce and widows were allowed to remarry. The Hindus weren’t allowed to divorce and the widows were actually discouraged to remarry and encouraged to commit suicide on their husband’s grave. The only similarity between these two religions is that when women marry, they’d join their husband’s household.
One of the great women in Moghul Dynasty was Nur Jahan, wife of emperor Jahangir. According to Shavers, The Moghul Empress Nur Jahan, she helped her husband with politics for fifteen years of her husband’s life. After her husband died, she stayed involved with the government. Her original plan was to administer the government, and in the end she formed a junta, which worked like a parliament. Nur Jahan helped the Moghul Dynasty when no ruler was present. This didn’t happen to “normal” women during the 16th and 17th centuries. Noble men adored their Moghul women. To prove that Shan Jahan loved his wife Mumtaz Mahal, he built the Taj Mahal, at the site of her grave.
The Moghul Dynasty imposed many lasting images of India. Babur created a great government, which accomplished great tasks. It unified India for the first time in a 1000 years, created a strong government, which eventually would be the basis of independent India’s government, and the long line of capable rulers, especially Akbar. Without the Moghul Dynasty, India would have been a divided nation with no central government. So the Moghul Dynasty many not be intact today, but the effects still linger.