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Hyderabad – The Nawabs of Bengal – Nawabs of Awadh – The Sikhs


Although Aurangzeb tried to consolidate his authority over Hyderabad, the city began to lose its importance.

The final nail was struck when the capital of the new province was shifted from Hyderabad to Aurangabad, which became the new headquarters of the Mughals in the Deccan.

In 1713, the Mughal Emperor, Farruksiyar, appointed a twenty six year old warrior Qamaruddin as the new Governor of Deccan. Qamruddin was the grandson of Chin Qilij Khan, Aurangzeb’s brave commander who lost his life during the siege of Golconda. The young Governor proved to be an able administrator and earned the title of Nizam-ul-Mulk or the Governor of the Kingdom.

In October 1724, Nizam-ul-Mulk declared himself Subedar or Governor of the six Deccan provinces – Aurangabad, Bidar, Bijapur, Berar, Adilabad and Hyderabad.

The Nawabs of Bengal

Shaista Khan was a Subedar and General in the army of the Mughal Empire. A maternal uncle to Emperor Aurangzeb, he served as the Mughal governor of Bengal from 1664 to 1688, and was a key figure during the rule of his nephew Aurangzeb.

Under his authority, the city of Dhaka and Mughal power in the province of Bengal attained its greatest heights. Now, Aurangzeb appointed Murshid Quli Khan as Dewan of Bengal in 1701.

During the reign of Aurangzeb and even after it, Murshid Quli’s rise was meteoric and he went on to become Nawab of Bengal. After the 1757 defeat of Siraj Ud Daulah in the hands of Robert Clive, the (British) East India Company came in the limelight.Clive’s victory was consolidated in 1764 at the Battle of Buxar (in Bihar), where the emperor, Shah Alam II was defeated.

As a result, Shah Alam was coerced to appoint the company to be the Dewan (collector of revenue) for the areas of Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa in 1765. The East India Company more or less followed the Muslim system of administration with introduction of some British/Scottish inspired laws.

Nawabs of Awadh

The Nawab of Awadh is a title that was given to the rulers of the Indian princely state of Awadh or Oudh, as it was referred to by the British. The Nawabs of Awadh were a clan of rulers that came from Persia in the early 18th century. Nawab Sa’adat, the first in the dynasty came from Persia in 1724 and established the state of Awadh at a time when the Mughal empire was shrinking. Taking advantage of the situation, he gained supremacy over Awadh and made Faizabad the capital.

The glory of Awadh can be seen in the present day cities of Uttar Pradesh such as Lucknow, Kanpur, and Faizabad. Lucknow, in particular, owes a lot of its present day charm and infrastructure which includes fine arts and cuisine to the former rulers of Awadh, who later made Lucknow their capital.

Awadh was earlier called by the name Lakshmanpur Awadh and is termed as an ancient Hindu state that has roots dating back to the popular mythological legend of Lord Rama of Ayodhya who had gifted Awadh to his brother Lakshman. Therefore, the original name of Awadh was Lakshmanpur which was located in the outskirts of Ayodhya. Hence, the name Awadh comes from the name Ayodhya which was the capital of the Hindu Kosal province.

At a time when the Mughal empire was disintegrating, a soldier in the Mughal army reaped rich rewards when he was made the governor of Awadh. Later this Nazim or Governor became the Nawab.

The Nawabs of Awadh received a fair degree of autonomy from the Mughal rulers in Delhi, however, their alliance with the British East India Company ensured that they would not remain independent for long.

The British had eyed the wealthy state of Awadh for long and after the defeat of the Shuja-ud-Daula, Nawab of Awadh in the Battle of Plassey, fortunes took a turn for the royal family of Awadh. Nevertheless, despite having to forfeit a lot of its territory to the British, the Nawab still managed to maintain a harmonious relationship with the British and became their chief ally.

The Sikhs

Zakariya Khan was the Mughal governor of Lahore from 1726 onwards when he replaced his father ‘Abd us-Samad Khan’ as governor.

He had earlier acted as the governor of Jammu from 1713 to 1720 and of Kashmir from 1720 to 1726. He had also taken part in the Lahore government’s operations against the Sikh leader Banda Singh Bahadur.

After the capture of Banda Singh and his companions in December 1715 at Gurdas Nangal, he escorted the prisoners to Delhi, rounding up Sikhs that he could find in villages along the route. As he reached the Mughal capital, the caravan comprised seven hundred bullock carts full of severed heads and over seven hundred captives.

With the execution of Banda Singh, the Sikhs were deprived of a unified command. Hunted out of their homes, the Sikhs scattered in small jathas or groups to find refuge in distant hills, forests and deserts, but they were far from vanquished.

Armed with whatever weapons they could lay their hands upon and living off the land, these highly mobile guerilla bands or jathas remained active during the worst of times. It was not unusual for the jathas to join together when the situation so demanded. The warrior bands of the Ban Doab (land between the Rivers Beas and Ravi) had being organized into four squadrons of 200 each, with a specified area of operation and provision for mutual assistance in time of need.

The Dal Khalsa was a kind of loose confederacy, without any regular constitution. Every chief maintained his independent character. The misls were subject to the control of the Sarbat Khalsa, the biannual assembly of the Panth at Amritsar.

The Dal Khalsa with its total estimated strength of 70,000 essentially consisted of cavalry; artillery and infantry elements were almost non-existent.

Ranjit Singh, a Maharaja (king of kings), was the founder of a Sikh empire that was able to wrest the march of colonial British forces in North India in the first half of the 19th century. Born on 13th November 1780 in Gujranwala, Pakistan, Ranjit Singh during his lifetime was successful in stopping territorial incursions from the North West, mainly from the notorious Pashtun (Afghan) tribes.

Though uneducated, he was a savvy judge of individuals and opportunities. A religiously tolerant personality, he was gentle even with his enemies.

Lack of education and loss of an eye was not enough to stop him from turning out to be a great strategist who was also an able and farsighted administrator. Groomed in Sikh fighting tradition, at a young age Ranjit Singh had mastered many martial arts. Putting an end to Afghan power in Punjab, Ranjit Singh in a succession of battles in 1813, 1823, 1834 and 1837 defeated their forces to establish the Sikh empire.

The Sikh forces, led by able generals Dewan Mokham and Hari Singh Nalwa, were able to push back the Afghan forces to Kabul, leaving Punjab, Sindh, Kashmir and many other hill states including Kangra for Ranjit Singh.


Jaipur and Rajput States

Amer (sometimes known as Amber, modern Jaipur from 1727) was one of the Rajput kingdoms of Rajasthan which existed in India in the modern north-west of the country. It was centered around the city of Amer (close to modern Jaipur) in eastern Rajasthan, near Delhi.

Amber was originally a Meena kingdom which was founded by the Chanda Meena king, Alan Singh, but was later captured by the Kachwaha Rajputs around 1036 or 1037.

The Kachwahas claim descent from Raja Nal of Ayodhya, a member of one of the Rajput Hindu warrior clans. In 1727, Sawai Jai Singh II shifted his capital from Amber to a newly constructed city very nearby which he named Jaipur. By now this was the senior Kachwaha clan and state.

There were a number of small Rajput kingdoms which emerged between the sixth and thirteenth centuries, including Alwar, Bikaner,Bundi, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Malwa, Kannauj, and Mewar, and all were eventually conquered by the Mughuls.

The Mughul Emperor Aurangzeb deputed Jai Singh (not to be confused with the son of Raj Singh of Mewar, who has the same name), to tackle the Maratha king, Shivaji. Shivaji was no match for Jai Singh’s mammoth army, and he was forced to sign the Treaty of Purandar, although Aurangzeb’s subsequent actions means that Shivaji resumed his attacks on the Moghuls.

The raja was also responsible for making Rao Agar Singh (ancestor of the later rajas of Alwar) the thakur of Macheri.

With Jai Singh now dead and with his brother prince, Jaswant Singh of Marwar, fighting in Southern Khorasan which is focussed on Herat, Aurangzeb put a plan into operation, attacking Marwar.

Following the death of  Aurangzeb, the empire was ruled by a series of weak emperors who witness the slow diminution of their power and territory. Jai Singh II has differences with the new emperor and was one of many who broke away from Moghul overlordship.

However, those differences were patched up and Jaipur returned to the fold, with the king serving as governor of Malwa and Agra. A third contender to the Jat throne of Bharatpur sought the help of Jai Singh II, and defeated his rival in battle. With Amber experiencing a population boom and water supplies suffering, a new capital called Jayapura was built and the state was renamed Jaipur.

Wars against Marwar were triggered. Abhai Singh of Marwar attacked Bikaner, but the capital was saved through the intervention of Raja Sawai Jai Singh II.

With the death of Jai Singh II, the cause of his eldest son, Ishwari Singh, was supported by Surajmal of the Jat kingdom of Bharatpur. Together, the pair secured the throne against Ishwari’s contender and brother, Madho Singh, who is in turn supported by Jagat Singh, the queen (maharana) of Mewar.

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