Category: mughal empire

A covered drain paved with stones and topped with an arch lined with
thin, burnt clay bricks was discovered by members of the Archaeological
Survey of India at the Red Fort, a fortress built of red sandstone by
Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in 1639 CE. You might know him as the builder
of the Taj Mahal.

The drain once connected the fort’s Delhi
Gate to the moat which surrounded nd protected the fort. Researchers are
now removing silt from the drain, and then will strengthen it, so that
it will once again be able to serve as a channel for rainwater.
Rainwater from within the Red Fort seems to have been directed to the
moat, whereas rainwater collected from the surrounding city was drained
away.

Known by various names – the Pomeranian War (Sweden), the Third Carnatic War (India), the French and Indian War (USA), La guerre de la Conquête (Quebec) – it involved all the major European powers and spanned five continent. Which is why the conflict is sometimes called “World War Zero.”

Emperor Akbar ruled the Mughal Empire from 1556 to 1605. When he came to the throne, he confronted a problem that had plagued his predecessors: how to be a Muslim ruler over a majority-Hindu nation, that also had substantial numbers of various other religions including Buddhism and Jainism. He eventually came to believe that no religion could have pre-eminence. In fact, he was not even sure that any religion was “the truth” but were all humanity’s imperfect interpretations. The logical conclusion is that all subjects of his empire should be free to practice whatever religion they wished.

Akbar began to hold conferences weekly, with wise men from all faiths (no known women, though). He would apply their wisdom to questions of state. He slowly took over spiritual leadership, even getting the Muslim clergy to pronounce a fatwa (judgement) that as emperor, Akbar could adjudicate any dispute between religious authorities – even overruling the Qur’an if necessary for the public interest.

Legally, Akbar made two big changes. He abolished the hated tax levied on the Hindu majority, the jizya, the “contribution for not being put to death”. He also created a private faith for the elite. It was not a new religion, per se. It was a kind of Sufi system for the rulers, with 10 cardinal virtues, the essence of which was promoting tolerance. Akbar combined aspects of different faiths, borrowing from all the religions of his empire, to create an ethical code that he wished his inner circle to follow. He called this the Din i-Ilahi, or “Worship of God.” While it has been accused of being a pick-and-mix religion, Akbar did not proclaim it a religion, and he remained a Muslim all his life.

The Din i-Ilahi died with Akbar in 1605, and the jizya was reintroduced by Akbar’s great-grandson Aurangzeb in 1679.

Sandwiched between the decline of one great empire, and the rise of another, the Maratha Empire lasted just under 150 years. Here’s the story of those 150 years.

No one actually knows where the Koh-i-Noor diamond came from. Who first discovered it, how big it was before being cut – all unknown. The famous diamond can concretely be placed only starting in 1739, as one of many jewels seized and shipped from Delhi to Iran by an upstart invader named Nader Shah. He was one of many local rulers who were taking advantage of the collapsing Mughal Empire. With a couple tons of loot being sent back to Nader Shah’s capital in Iran, historians are lucky anyone thought to note the Koh-i-Noor!

The tenth and final Sikh guru, Gobind Singh, founded an egalitarian religious warrior community called the Khalsa in 1699. His father had been beheaded for refusing to convert to Islam, and Singh lived his life fighting the Muslim Mughul Empire. Four of his sons died before him, either fighting the Mughuls or executed by them. The Mughals were determined that this small new religion would submit, and convert. The Sikhs were literally fighting for survival.

In 1704, the Mughuls attacked the city of Anandpur.

Under Gobind Singh, the Sikhs were initially victorious, so the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb sent a larger army, with two of his top generals. A full-out siege ensued. Water and food supplies were cut off, and multiple minor battles happened while the city slowly succumbed. At one point, about forty Sikh warriors deserted Gobind Singh, and returned home to their families.

According to legend a Sikh woman, Mai Bhago, heard of the desertions. She was not going to stand for it. Mai Bhago shamed the deserters to return, and fight, and she would join them. They all died in the fighting, and only Mai Bhago – and Gobind Singh – survived. In thanks for her heroism, Mai Bhago was made part of Singh’s personal bodyguard.

The first six Moghul Emperors of India ruled in an unbroken succession from father to son for nearly 200 years, from 1526 to 1707. Which sounds impressive. But wait – this was not father to eldest son. There was no tradition of primogeniture, where the eldest son automatically inherits the crown.

Each of those father-to-son successions happened only after civil war and court intrigue and, yes, brothers murdering brothers…