The Mughal Chronicles V: The Stagnation Point

 

220px-Jahangircrop

4th Mughal Emperor- Jahangir

 

When it comes to big empires, there are times when things come at a standstill, for the Mughals that period was between Akbar’s death and Jahangir’s rule. After a massive success of Akbar’s administration both in expansion of the empire as well as stabilization of the administration there was a visible lull during Jahangir’s time, most notably because of Jahangir’s addiction to opium and wine- The same thing that consumed his grandfather- Humayun.

As a person Jahangir was extremely sharp, had great intellect and even good warfare skills, however his addictions took better hold of him and he was never to be establish himself the way his illustrious father had. It was in fact because of Nur Jahan- Jahangirs wife- that the empire was kept intact and not lost to enemies. She was one excellent thinker and definitely an able administrator who managed to keep things together till Jahangir was in power.  Here’s a small post I had written on her earlier. Women Behind the Veil

Another interesting trend that emerged from Akbars time and which was to persist for the entire posterity to come was the rise  of internal feuds- feud between brothers and between father and sons trying to usurp the lucrative Mughal throne. Lastly, Jahangir’s rule also brought about some serious interaction with the Britishers, the administration granted several favors to them because of which they were able to strengthen trade posts in India. This was another significant event that would affect the Mughal fortunes in the future.

With this background- here’s a quick look at his life and times of this Mughal ruler.

Under the Shadow of Akbar the Great

Jahangir was born as Nur-ud-din Salim, eldest surviving son of Akbar and his Hindu Rajput wife- Jodha Bai. From the beginning he shared a very hot-cold relationship with his father, always looked for his approval and felt depressed when he didn’t get any encouragement from Akbar. He was even caught in an estranged relationship between his parents, unlike popular belief,  Akbar and Jodha Bai shared a very tense equation owing to their difference in religion and custom. At the time of marriage while Akbar looked at it from a sound political alliance perspective, Jodha Bai was extremely unhappy to have wed into a different religious house altogether. Following the union Jodha Bai stayed away from Akbar and would constantly reprimand him in front of his son. This further affected the father-son relationship.

Nevertheless Jahangir was a man with multiple interests- in art, architecture, science etc and excelled wonderfully in his subjects. Among all the 3 surviving brothers, Jahangir was the only one who had some promise to hold the reigns in the future. This was more so because he controlled his tendency of drinking till he was emperor in waiting better than his brothers all of whom succumbed to their addictions.

The Son Revolts

 

Jahangir was well nearing his 40s when he decided to revolt against his father, while his forefathers were all in power at the prime of their youth, Jahangir was way past that stage and this was gnawing him inside daily, coupled this with Akbar’s unending vitality showing no signs of slowing down further made Jahangir insecure about his own prospects.

So it was in 1599 while Akbar was away on one of his campaigns in Deccan, Jahangir decided to revolt against him, an attempt to wrest the throne in his hands. This was however quashed quickly by Akbar and further strained the relationship between father and son. Jahangir was in fact fortunate that Akbar didn’t execute him as was the case in treason. His mercy had more to do with his helplessness in the absence of an alternate ruler than out of love for his son.

Jahangir Takes the Throne 

6 years after the revolt Akbar died at the age of 63 finally giving way to Jahangir to become the Emperor of the Mughal throne. This ascent however was not easy but with the help of his harem he managed to acquire it. Another very significant event after coming to power was his marriage to his long term consort- Mehrunissa also called Nur Jahan. It is know that he had first met her during his stay at Kabul- Mehrunissa was the daughter of Mirza Ghias Beg, the governor of Kabul at the time- Since that moment on Mehrunissa has been his chief confidante and eventually his wife. 

So much was her influence on Jahangir that at one point she was the de-facto ruler while he was out drunk and high on opium.  She was part of all key decision making regarding the rule of the country, the only thing she perhaps didn’t successfully do was lead the army to battle. This is why if you see the map of Mughal conquest between Akbar and Jahangir, Jahangir has not much to show for.

Regardless of that Mehrunissa was extremely sharp and particular about placing her own family at key positions- Eg her father was given the treasury of the empire, her brother was  appointed the Grand Wazir even her niece Arjumand Banu Begum (Mumtaz Mahal) was married off to Khurram (Shahjahan) who at the time was pipped to be the next king. Through these maneuvers she ensured the safety of her family, her only weak point was not having a child of her own with Jahangir. This absence later on proved to be fatal for she was sidelined while her brother and her daughter took center stage with Khurram.

Trouble at Home: Another Son Revolts 

Jahangir came to power when he was 36. At the time he already had 4 grown up sons ready and standing in line for the throne. In his first year itself his eldest son Khusrau revolted against him, his attempt however was haphazard and unorganized because of which it was quashed and he was captured like his father. Jahangir was not like Akbar though, he didn’t show any mercy to him, fearing that sooner or later his son will try to revolt again he blinded him and sent him on exile. This was the story of Khusrau. 

The other 2 sons- Perviz and Shahriyar were too drunk and debauched to have anything do with power. It was only Khurrum who had shown his potential to become the king both at the battlefield and in court. Indeed out of all his sons Khurrum was the closest and was in favor with him till the time Khurrum decided to take power into his own hands. He had time and again shown his capabilities and again seeing an ageing father who not only was incapable but at the same time refused to step down from power exhausted Khurrum’s patience. The rebellion was further fuelled when Mehrunnisa had designs to marry her daughter from her first marriage with Jahangirs youngest son. Thereby showing every intention to be part of the race to succession.  

Same Throne, New King

The revolt which started in 1622 was quelled in 1626 just a year before Jahangir passed away. In 1627 Khurrum with the help of his father in law Asaf Khan executed his brother Shahriyar the last contender to the throne and became the undisputed king and crowned to the throne as Emperor Shahjahan.  Mehrunissa was exiled to Lahore with a pension and with that money she commissioned the Jahangir’s tomb.

With Shahjahan began another era of Mughal rule, same past just in another mould.

 

 

 

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