- Jan 13, 2007
Opulence, majesty and landscape gardening, or a Mughal AAR
EU2 said:The great Mongol heir Bâbur, founder of the great and vibrant Mughal Empire, was indeed very qualified for conquest. Descended from Timur by his father and from Genghis Khan by his mother he ruled the remains of the Timurid Empire from his capital in Kabul, constantly trying, and failing, to recapture the old capital of Samarkand from the Uzbeks. Disappointed, he turned to India, divided between several small kingdoms and sultanates which were constantly at each others necks. He took advantage of the situation and before his death in 1530 he had established a powerful Empire in northern India on the ruins of the Sultanate of Delhi. The Empire continued to grow until it dominated almost all of India at the beginning of the XVIIth century, before its long period of decline set in. By the early XIXth century, the power of the Mughal Emperors was almost only honorific but the dynasty managed to survive somehow in Delhi, still being recognized as the legitimate rulers of India.
Historical map of the Mughal Empire
The Mughal Empire was not only one of the most powerfull state that dominated India trough the thousand-years long history of that region, but was unique in its culture. The Mughal period would see a more fruitful blending of Indian, Iranian and Central Asian artistic, intellectual and literary traditions than any other in India's history. The Mughals had a taste for the fine things in life — for beautifully designed artifacts and the enjoyment and appreciation of cultural activities. The Mughals borrowed as much as they gave; both the Hindu and Muslim traditions of the Indian Subcontinent were huge influences on their interpretation of culture and court style.
The Taj Mahal, one of the most famous architectural work of the classical Mughal period.
Everything in the above texts and documents seems to tell that two centuries ago India had reached new heights in refinement and power. But today everything seems to be telling that this era is over. With the last Mughals limited to only the rule of the city of Delhi (and under British 'protection'), and most of the principalities of the sub-continent divided and dominated by a foreign power, any political authority was denied to the Indian princes. But there was worse- most of the coastlines and the Ganges valley, the very heart of India, were under direct control of the British East India Company.
The greed of the Compagny had no end; expension continued a little bit everywhere in India and only the northwest seemed to be spared -for now.
India in 1836
The Indian princes were helpless. Outnumbered and forced to recognize British technological and tactical superiority, most of them just hidden in their palaces and citadels, trying to ignore that they had in fact no powers.
The sorry state of the Indian subcontinent would probably had worsened even more in the following decades if nobody would had risen to stop it. But who still had enough power to not just provoke a bloodbath and achieve something? Probably not the Maharaja of Travancore, or the Wadiyar of Mysore. Maybe the Nizam of Hyderabad, if only he wasn't completly surrounded by the lands of the East India Company. The Maharaja of Nagpur was old and without children, and completly surrounded too; the Rajas of Bastar, Orissa and Bundelkhand were too weaks and smalls too. The Nawab of Awadh was a rich man and a patrons of the arts, but was not a military genius. The Raj of Shimla was isolated into his mountains. Both the Rao of Indore and the Belgaum of Bhopal were merely limitated to rule city-states. The Maharaja of Gwailor was independent from the Company, but was constantly threatened by the Rajput lords. Those Rajas had little power outside of their cities anyway- the Pink City of Jaipur, the Maharana of Mewar, and the Maharawals of Bikaner and Jaisalmer were also under British domination. The Maharaja of Jodhpur was the most powerfull of the Rajput princes, but that only meant he was more closely watched by the British agents. The Maharaja of Beroda was alway busy fighting the Gujarati pirates on his coastlines, and the Maharao of Kutch was ruling over a mix of swamp and deserts, and was too poor to do anything. The Nawabs of Kalat and Makran did not cared much about India either- they considerated themself as Baluchi. Maybe the Amirs of Sindh could be up to something however, if they were not alway busy fighting themselfs. The Rajas of Kashmir and the Chogyals of Ladhak were probably too isolated to even note that the Mughal Empire was out of the map anyway.
That hopeless list of helpless Rajas, Maharajas and other exotically and colourfully named lords was a good portrait of 1836 India. Divided and dominated, but also diverse and mysterious. A mixing of cultures, languages and religions like nowhere else in the world. India is a world in itself, being much more a continent than a country. In this unique place were every city seems to be a pilgrimage destination, where every temple have its own legends, the population is secretly waiting for something to liberate them from foreign rule. Not that India was not used to be ruled by non-Indian dynasties - even the great Mughals were of central Asian origins, and were speaking Persian anyway- but the British rule was something different. In a place where tolerance is holding everything together more than violence, a nation from the other side of the world, a rainy island in northwestern Europe, is arrogantly looking down upon the thousand-years old traditions of this world and dominate for the sole purpose of economical benefits.
This is where Panjab come into the story- not Muslim like most of its neighbors, not really Hindu either, the Panjabi people is following its own religion: Sikhism. The Sikh 'Empire' is, by 1836, the most powerfull state in India (outside of the United Kingdom). Organised on the structure of a federation of autonomous 'Misls', the Panjab expended during the previous decades, and was considerated by many as the only power able of resisting the British. Its internal structure and oranisation made the Sikh army a very competant force, able of even threatening Delhi.
The Maharajah Ranjit Singh of Panjab however held a great authority over its federation, and was ambitiously considering additional conquests. The current political fragmentation of India and its domination by an exploitative foreign power would make the population very likely to accept and even support a conquest by the Sikh lords if covered by the legitimate facade that would constitute a restauration of the Mughal Empire of old.
Panjab in 1836