Decline of Mughal Rule and the Battle of Plassey

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The death of Alamgir in 1707 is generally regarded as the beginning of the gradual decline, and ultimately fall, of the once extensive, prosperous and powerful Mughal Empire. Although it took nearly 150 years before the House of Babur finally disappeared from the scene, the cracks that had appeared at Alamgir’s death widened.

His son Muazzam, who ruled from 1707 to 1712, succeeded Aurangzeb Alamgir. He took for himself the title of Bahadur Shah. He ruled for five years and momentarily revived the Mughal Empire. But the Marhatta’s power increased and they became the unchallenged rulers of Deccan. In the province of Punjab, the Sikhs under Guru Govind Singh became a force to reckon with. One of the reasons that power centers kept springing up outside Delhi was the frequent change in the succession of Empires. Nearly 17 kings were crowned during the period spanning from 1707 to 1857.

The weakened Mughal Empire invited havoc in the form of the Persian king Nadir Shah, in 1738-39. On his orders a general massacre of the citizens of Delhi was carried out, resulting in the death of 30,000 people. Another threat to the Mughal Empire came from the Afghans of Rohilkhand, lying northeast of Delhi. By the middle of 18th century, the Rohillas became independent of the Mughal rule. At the same time the Jats also raised their heads against the central rule.

Taking advantage of this chaotic situation, the East India Company began strengthening its military capabilities. They conspired with Hindu traders and moneylenders against Nawab Sirajuddullah of Bengal to take over his principality. The Battle of Plassey of 1757 is considered a major breakthrough for the British in the Sub-continent. It paved the way for the company’s rule in Bengal, and hence the whole of India ultimately came under the company’s rule.

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