Jehangir as a Ruler of the Mughal Empire
Posted Date: 24-Nov-2011
The article describes Jehangir born as Salim was the son of Akbar and Jodhabai. It brings out the activities of Jehangir as a ruler, his policies and the ordinances issued during his reign. The articles goes on to describe Jehangir's policies of expansion, the various rebellions and conquests. The articles also gives an estimate of Jehangir and Nur Jahan
Jehangir was born as Salim on 13 August 1569 in hermitage of Shaikh Salim Chisti. He was the only surviving son of Akbar, Murad and Daniyal having died during Akbar's lifetime. He was crowned King at age 36 at Agra and assumed the title of Jehangir. He was the son of Jodhabai.
Rebelled against father - Even during Akbar's lifetime Salim had rebelled against his father when Akbar was away in the Deccan. Akbar took a lenient view of the revolt and appointed Salim as governor of Bihar and Bengal. But this did not satisfy the young prince who was in a hurry to become the emperor. Salim further annoyed his father by causing the death of Abul Fazl.
In the meanwhile a conspiracy was being hatched against Salim by Raja Mansingh who wanted Salim's son Khusrau to succeed to the throne. The fear of being superseded by his son made Salim realize his mistake and begged Akbar for forgiveness. A few days before Akbar's death, Salim was nominated to the throne and he ascended the throne after the death of Akbar.
Soon after his accession Jehangir tried to win the hearts of his people by issuing a number of orders which were in line with Akbar's policies. He reaffirmed his resolve to follow the liberal policies of his father and issued 12 ordinances:
1. He prohibited the levies and cesses which were extorted by zamindars.
2. Jagirdars should make efforts to populate deserted areas near highways and build a serai and a mosque.
3. The entire property of a deceased person should be allowed to his heirs.
4. Taking and selling of wine and other intoxicants was prohibited although the emperor himself was addicted to it.
5. The forcible possession of people's houses and property by the government was disallowed.
6. In no case should noses and ears of criminals be cut off.
7. Slaughter of animals was prohibited on a certain number of days.
8. In all important towns, hospitals were to be established and physicians appointed.
9. He not only confirmed all the mansabs and jagirs of Akbar's time but also elevated the ranks of army officers.
10. He set free all prisoners long imprisoned in forts and other jails.
11. He prohibited officers of Khalsa lands and the jagirdars from taking the lands of the farmers by force.
12. Respect to be paid to Sunday i.e. birthday of his father and Thursday the day of his accession and no animal slaughter to be done on these two days.
Apart from issuing these ordinances he also set up a famous chain of justice with golden bells which any oppressed could ring in order to obtain audience with the king.
Rebellion of KHUSRAU - The first year of Jehangir's reign was marred by the rebellion of his son Prince Khusrau. Even before Salim came to power Khusrau was a serious candidate for the throne. Disappointment at not becoming Emperor, Khusrau left Agra on the pretext of visiting Akbar's tomb at Sikander and then marched into Lahore. He was immediately pursued by the imperial army and defeated near Jalandar. Guru Arjun Dev had blessed Khusrau and gifted him some money. So after Khusrau's defeat Arjun Dev was now asked to pay a fine of 2 lakhs to Jehangir. On the Guru's refusal to pay the fine Jehangir tortured him to death.
This political decision may not be an act of religious persecution but it estranged the Sikhs from the Moghuls and led to many revolts on their part during later Moghul rule. After his defeat Khusrau was ordered to be blinded and imprisoned. Later on he was handed over to Prince Khusrau who had his murdered in 1622.
Conquest of Mehwad - Jehangir's contemporary at Mewad was Rana Aman Singh the son of Rana Pratap. In the very first year of his reign Jehangir sent an army to Mewad under Prince Parwez and Asaf Khan. The operations had to be stopped because in the meanwhile Prince Khusrau had rebelled against Jehangir. Later in 1608 the campaign was resumed under Mahabat Khan with varying degrees of success. Later the war with Mewad continued till 1614 under different commands of Abdullah Khan and a few others. In 1614 when Prince Khusrau was placed in charge of the campaign, he captured many families of Rajput chiefs who finally recognized Moghul supremacy. Rana Amar Singh asked for peace. According to the terms of the Treaty 1000 horses and his son Prince Karan were to be under Moghul service as Manasabdar. The Rana was exempted from personal attendance at the Mughal Darbar and Chittor was restored to the rana on the condition that he would never repair of fortify it. Thus the long drawn out war between the two powers came to an end. Jehangir's treatment of the Rana was wise and conciliatory and thus Mewad remained loyal to the Moghul crown till Aurangzeb's fanatical policies drove them into open rebellion.
Taming of Bengal - Bengal was a problem to the Moghuls due to its distance from the capital. Another reason was the large settlement of Afghanis who defied Moghul authority. Sher Afghan was a Jagirdar of Bundwar had not submitted to Moghul rule. Raja Man Singh had been the earlier governor of Bengal and was now replaced by Qutub-ud-din Khan. In a conflict both Qutub ud din and Sher Afghan lost their lives in 1607.
The new Moghul governor Islam Khan subdued Pratapditya of Jersore and fortified Dacca / Dhaka. He occupied Sonargaon and defeated the Afghans there. In 1613 he invaded Kamrupa and annexed it. Dacca was renamed as Jehangir nagar. He was succeeded by his brother Qasim Khan and was later replaced by Ibrahim Khan.
Submission of Kangra in 1620 - After the prolonged siege Rai Rayan Vikraiyat had subjugated the fort of nagarkot. The fort of Kangra was thus captured by the Moghuls and is a great military achievement of Jehangir's army. Jehangir himself visited the fort and had a mosque built there.
Conquest of Ahmednagar - The whole of Khandhesh and a port of ahmednagar had been captured by Akbar. Jehangir wanted to conquer the rest of ahmednagar and Bijapur and Golkonda if possible. The affairs in the Deccan were under Malik Amber an abyssianian minister. Nur Jahan took interest in matters of state policy and could understand intricate problems of government in an instant. Jehangir was impressed with her and made her a partner in the administration. Coins were struck in her name and she sat in the Jharoka and in effect became the real ruler of the country.
Nur Jahan's father Mirza Ghiyas Beg was given the title of Itmad-ud-daulah and appointed as prime minister. Her brother Azaf Khan also held office as a Minister. Other members of the family also benefitted from this alliance. Their mansabs were raised. Asaf Khans daughter was married to Prince Khaurram that is Shah Jehan who was his father's favorite. She gave her daughter in marriage to the youngest son of Jehangir Prince Shah Ryar.
Shah Jahan's rebellion - Nur Jahan wanted to retain her control over the throne and intended to install Prince Shah Ryar after Jehangir. Shah Jehan himself wanted to become emperor. Jehangir died in 1627.
In order to get Shah Jehan out of the way Nur Jahan asked him to lead an expedition to Khandhar which had been captured by the Shah of Persia. Shah Jehan refused to go realizing the necessity of his presence in the capital. This was during the life time of Jehangir. Supported by Moghuls like Mutamind Khan and the Khan I Kharam shah jahan marched towards Agra. Jehangir persuaded Mahabat Khan to take command and Khuram was chased across the country.
Shah Jahan was defeated at Bilochpur (1623). He proceeded to the Deccan and then to Bengal but unable to occupy Bihar he returned to the Deccan. This time he concluded an alliance with Malik Amber against Mahabat Khan. But on finding that his resources were exhausted Shah Jahan decided to submit to the emperor in 1665. As part of the agreement two of Shah Jahan's sons Dara and Aurangzeb were sent to court as hostages and a tract in the Deccan was assigned for Shah Jahan's expenses. The forts of Rohdas and Asrgarh were surrendered to Jehangir.
Thus ended the rebellion of shah jahan which had rocked the empire for three years, resulting in a civil war with tremendous loss of life and property. The royal treasury was depleted and serious law and order problems were created for the govt. Nur Jahan can be said to be responsible for this rebellion.
Mahabat Khan's revolt (1626) - Nur Jahan was jealous of the rising power of Mahabat Khan and his intimacy with Prince Parvez. She wanted to neutralize his power in determining his succession to the throne. With this end in view he got orders issued for the transfer of Mahabat khan to Bengal and even got changes of disobedience framed against him. He was asked to give an account of the large sums of money collected from the jagirdars of Bihar and Bengal and to return the elephants he had obtained there. Further he was asked to explain why his daughter was married without the prior approval of the emperor.
The emperor was camping at the river Jhelum on his way to Kabul in March 1626 when Mahabat Khan suddenly appeared with 4000 of his loyal Rajput soldiers. Most of the imperial army had already crossed over and only a handful of persons including Jehangir and Nur Jehan were left behind. Mahabat Khans soldiers imprisoned Jehangir. He had thus succeeded in his coup but had forgotten to put Nur Jehan under arrest. Nur Jehan crossed over to the other side and launched an attack on Mahabat Khan which was unsuccessful, so she surrendered voluntarily and joined her husband.
Mahabat Khan now became the virtual power behind the throne. But he was a soldier and not an administrator. Nur Jehan was able to win many of the nobles over to her side. The emperor put himself in charge of his personal army. Mahabat Khan abandoned Jehangir and fled from the court. Sometime later he joined Shah Jehan who was biding his time. Before Nur Jehan could take effective measures against this combination emperor Jehangir who was unwell for several years died in 1627 at Bhimbar on the way back from Kashmir. The faith of the empire hung in balance.
Nur jehan sent word to Shah Ryar to make a bid for the throne. Asaf Khan did his best to prevent Shah Ryar. Shah Jehan made his state entry into the capital on 24th January 1628. Bereft of any hope of power Nur Jahan retired from public life. Asaf Khan imprisoned Shah Ryar and blinded him for which he was honored by shah jehan. Nur jehan spent her last days in sorrow at Lahore in the company of her daughter the widow of shah Ryar. Nur jehan died in 1645 in the mausoleum unworthy of the great queen opposite the grand mausoleum she had built for her husband Jahangir at Shahdad in Lahore
Loss of Kandahar - Kandahar is a province of strategic importance since it is the gateway to India from the northwest. The commercial importance of this place also cannot be exaggerated. It was the main trading center of merchants of central Asia, turkey, Persia and India. The commercial importance of this place was further increased because the Portuguese controlled the seas and they were hostile towards Persia. Babar conquered Kandahar in 1522 from Persia and it was retained by Humayun and Kamran. The Persian king got it back in 1558 after humayun's death. But as soon as Akbar ascended the throne he made efforts to suppress the rebellious tribes there. Todar Mal managed to recapture Kandahar for the Mughals under Akbar in 1594.
There was an internal rebellion in the Mughal Empire at the commencement of Jehangir's rule. This gave an opportunity to the Shah of Persia to generate instability in Khandar. He finally took it in 1622. Jehangir at once asked shah jehan to proceed to Kandahar but he refused and thus Kandahar was lost to the empire which was a blow to its prestige.
An estimate of Jehangir - Jehangir was not devoid of courage and possessed some of the qualities of his father. He had a reputation for impartial justice even when his near and dear ones were involved. He was generally tender and humane but could be heartless and cruel when the security of his throne was threatened. These traits of his character have led some foreign travelers to describe Jahangir as a mixture of opposites. His fame has been eclipsed by the glory of his father and the splendor of his son. On the whole Jahangir followed the policy of tolerance to all faiths. Though he did torture Guru Arjun Dev to death, this may be attributed to political ravage since the Guru had sided with Khusrau. Jehangir is also accused of having persecuted the Jains of Gujarat. This was mainly due to the fact that their temples and other buildings were reported to have centers of disturbance.
Jehangir was a lover of art and took a keen interest in painting. He was a lover of nature and ordered that unusual flowers rare birds and animals should be painted. Like Babur he took delight in laying out gardens. He was well versed in Persian literature and his autobiography Tuzuk-i-Jehangiri contains an objective record of his life. He could speak Turkish fluently and took keen interest in Hindi poetry. The main weak effect in his character was his excessive drinking and pursuit of pleasure which make him indifferent to the business of the state. The result was that the peace of the empire was seriously disturbed and on more than one occasion no decisive result could be achieved because of lack of interest on the emperor's part.
An estimate of Nur Jehan - Nur Jehan or light of the world was a highly attractive personality. She left an indelible mark in the annals of Jahangir's reign. She possessed all that is lovable and attractive in a woman. She possessed an intellectual caliber of a very high order and could understand the most intricate problems of state to tackle them successfully.
Besides she was fond of poetry and wrote verses which are still admired. She set the fashions of the age designed new varieties of silk and cotton fabrics and suggested new models of jewellery hither to unknown to Hindustan.
Nur Jehan was endowed with a deeply generous heart and was deeply touched by the sufferings of the poor. Nur Jehan's influence however was not all for the good of the state. The palace and the court became centers of intrigue and it was her scheming that drove Prince Khusrav to rebel and produced disorder in the country. On account of her position Persian's art and culture acquired great prestige at the court. Nur Jehan was a constant companion to Jehangir and even joined him on his hunting expeditions, since she was a good rider and a sure shot.
Some modern historians are of the opinion that along with her father and brother and in alliance with Khurram, Nur Jehan formed a group 'Junta' which managed Jahangir and that this led to the division of the court into two factions the Junta and its opponents. However some other historians do not agree with this view. They point out that till 1622 when Jahangir's health broke down all the important political decisions were taken by Jahangir himself as his clear from his autobiography.
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