Fall of the Moghul Empire of Hindustan

Author: H. G. Keene

Chapter III. A.D. 1719-48

Muhammad Shah — Chin Kulich Khan, his retirement from Dehli — Movements of the Mahrattas — Invasion of Nadir Shah — Ahmad Khan repulsed by the Moghuls.

GUIDED by his mother, a person of sense and spirit, the young Emperor began his reign by forming a party of Moghul friends, who were hostile to the Saiyids on every conceivable account. The former were Sunnis, the latter Shias; and perhaps the animosities of sects are stronger than those of entirely different creeds. Moreover, the courtiers were proud of a foreign descent; and, while they despised the ministers as natives of India, they possessed in their mother tongue — Turkish — a means of communicating with the Emperor (a man of their own race) from which the ministers were excluded. The Saiyids were soon overthrown, their ruin being equally desired by Chin Kulich, the head of the Turkish party, and Saadat Ali, the newly-arrived adventurer from Persia. These noblemen now formed the rival parties of Turan and Iran; and became distinguished, the one as founder of the principality of Audh, abolished in 1856, the other as that of the dynasty of Haidarabad, which still subsists. Both, however, were for the time checked by the ambition and energy of the Mahrattas. Chin Kulich was especially brought to his knees in Bhopal, where the Mahrattas wrung from him the cession of Malwa, and a promise of tribute to be paid by the Imperial Government to these rebellious brigands.

This was a galling situation for an ancient nobleman, trained in the traditions of the mighty Aurangzeb. The old man was now between two fires. If he went on to his own capital, Haidarabad, he would be exposed to wear out the remainder of his days in the same beating of the air that had exhausted his master. If he returned to the capital of the Empire, he saw an interminable prospect of contempt and defeat at the hands of the Captain-General Khan Dauran, the chief of the courtiers who had been wont to break their jests upon the old-fashioned manners of the veteran.

Thus straitened, the Nizam, for by that title Chin Kulich was now beginning to be known, took counsel with Saadat, the Persian, who was still at Dehli. Nadir Shah, the then ruler of Persia, had been for some time urging on the Court of Dehli remonstrances arising out of boundary quarrels and similar grievances. The two nobles, who may be described as opposition leaders, are believed to have in 1738 addressed the Persian monarch in a joint letter which had the result of bringing him to India, with all the consequences which will be found related in the History of Hindustan by the present writer, and in the well-known work of Mountstuart Elphinstone.

It would be out of place in this introduction to dwell in detail upon the brief and insincere defence of the Empire by Saadat ’Ali, in attempting to save whom the Khan Dauran lost his life, while the Nizam attempted vain negotiations. The Persians, as is well-known, advanced on Dehli, massacred some 100,000 of the inhabitants, held the survivors to ransom, and ultimately retired to their own country, with plunder that has been estimated at eighty millions sterling, and included the famous Peacock Throne.

The Nizam was undoubtedly the gainer by these tragic events. In addition to being Viceroy of the Deccan, he found himself all-powerful at Dehli, for Saadat ’Ali had died soon after the Khan Dauran. Death continuing to favour him, his only remaining rival, the Mahratta Peshwa, Baji Rao, passed away in 1740, on the eve of a projected invasion of Hindustan. In 1745 the Province of Rohelkhand became independent, as did the Eastern Subahs of Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa. Leaving his son to represent him at Dehli, the Nizam settled at Haidarabad as an independent ruler, although he still professed subordination to the Empire, of which he called himself Vakil-i-Mutlak, or Regent.

Shortly after, a fresh invader from the north appeared in the person of Ahmad Khan Abdali, leader of the Daurani Afghans, who had obtained possession of the frontier provinces during the confusion in Persian politics that succeeded the assassination of Nadir. But a new generation of Moghul nobles was now rising, whose valour formed a short bright Indian summer in the fall of the Empire; and the invasion was rolled back by the spirit and intelligence of the heir apparent, the Vazir’s son Mir Mannu, his brother-in-law Ghazi-ud-din, and the nephew of the deceased Governor of Audh, Abul-Mansur Khan, better known to Europeans by his title Safdar Jang. The decisive action was fought near Sirhind, and began on the 3rd March, 1748. This is memorable as the last occasion on which Afghans were ever repulsed by people of India until the latter came to have European leaders. The death of the Vazir took place eight days later. This Vazir (Kamr-ul-din Khan), who had long been the head of the Turkish party in the State, was the nominal leader of the expedition, in conjunction with the heir-apparent, though the chief glory was acquired by his gallant son Mannu, or Moin-ul-din. The Vazir did not live to share the triumph of his son, who defeated the enemy, and forced him to retire. The Vazir Kamr-ul-din died on the 11th, just before the retreat of the Afghans. A round shot killed him as he was praying in his tent; and the news of the death of this old and constant servant, who had been Mohammad’s personal friend through all the pleasures and cares of his momentous reign, proved too much for the Emperor’s exhausted constitution. He was seized by a strong convulsion as he sate administering justice in his despoiled palace at Dehli, and expired almost immediately, about the 16th of April, A.D. 1748.


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Chicago: H. G. Keene, "Chapter III. A.D. 1719-48," Fall of the Moghul Empire of Hindustan, ed. Iles, George, 1852-1942 and trans. Whiston, William, 1667-1752 in Fall of the Moghul Empire of Hindustan (New York: Doubleday, Page, 1909), Original Sources, accessed August 17, 2022, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=5AXDGBPLNRW6VHX.

MLA: Keene, H. G. "Chapter III. A.D. 1719-48." Fall of the Moghul Empire of Hindustan, edited by Iles, George, 1852-1942, and translated by Whiston, William, 1667-1752, in Fall of the Moghul Empire of Hindustan, Vol. 36, New York, Doubleday, Page, 1909, Original Sources. 17 Aug. 2022. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=5AXDGBPLNRW6VHX.

Harvard: Keene, HG, 'Chapter III. A.D. 1719-48' in Fall of the Moghul Empire of Hindustan, ed. and trans. . cited in 1909, Fall of the Moghul Empire of Hindustan, Doubleday, Page, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 17 August 2022, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=5AXDGBPLNRW6VHX.