Muazzam Bahadur Shah (b.1643-d.1712) was also known as Shah Alam I.
He became emperor in 1707 after a brief struggle against his brothers, especially
Prince Azam. He inherited a kingdom in upheaval from
his father, Aurangzeb, with many vassal states rebelling. He tried to bring about peace in the polity
with his more liberal approach, and, unlike his father, he followed the
Sufi Islamic tradition. He succeeded in making peace with the Sikhs,
but he was a old man when he ascended the throne and his reign
barely lasted five years.
Jahandar Shah (b.1661-d.1713) succeeded his father, Muazzam, after a
fight against his brother, Azim us Shan (Azim us Shan was earlier
credited for having fought successful wars against the Sikh general,
Banda Bahadur). The conflict ended with Azim's death. Jahander Shah could rule
only for eleven months (1712-1713) before being killed by
Farrukhsiyar, the son of Azim us Shan, who then declared himself
Farrukhsiyar (b.1685-d.1719) ascended the Mughal throne in 1713. He
was assisted in this process by the Sayid brothers - Sayid Husein
Ali, who became the wazir, and Sayid Abdullah Ali, who became the
commander of his army. Farrukhsiyar was virtually a puppet in the
hands of the Sayid brothers with them being de facto rulers. Farukhsiyar
also had long-standing trouble with the Sikhs which led to
the capture and death of their general, Banda Bahadur, and his
associate, Baz Singh. Eventually this spurred the Sikhs on to form their
own kingdom. Farukhsiyar was also instrumental in allowing the East
India Company trading rights in Bengal. He tried to
break the shackles of the Sayid brothers, but they simply deposed
him and installed his nephew, Rafi ul Darjat, on the royal throne.
Farukhsiyar was imprisoned and allegedly murdered at the behest of
the Sayid brothers.
Rafi ul Darjat was another short term puppet emperor in the hands of
the Sayid brothers. He was briefly and unsuccessfully challenged by
his uncle Nikusiyar. He died in 1719, after enthroning his brother
Rafi ul Daulat to the Mughal throne.
The Mughals The Rise and Fall of the
Mughals (dead link)
Muazzam Bahadur Shah I reigned from 1707-1712, the
first of a series of weaker emperors
Rafi ul Daulat (d.1719) was the third puppet of the Sayid brothers
lasting not even a year.
Nikusiyar (d.1743) served as the nominal
sovereign. He was propped
up by a local minister.
Muhammed Shah (b.1702-d.1748) was the grandson of Bahadur Shah I. He
ascended the throne in 1719 with the help of the Sayid brothers, but
later turned the tables on them and removed them in a coup. During his time
on the throne many smaller kingdoms
cropped up. In 1739, Nadir Shah of Persia invaded and looted Delhi.
He even carried away the famed 'peacock throne', and the Kohinoor and
the 'Darya e noor' diamonds with him, leaving Muhammed Shah
Ahmad Shah Bahadur (b.1725-d.1775) was the son of Muhammad Shah. He
retired in 1753 (due to a disease he contracted) after having been made the
emperor at the age of 23. He was murdered in his sleep by his vazir,
Gazi ud din. His son, Bidar Baksh II, temporarily rose to power in
1788 as a puppet of Ghulam Qadir.
Aziz ud din Alamgir II (b.1699-d.1759) He ruled for six years from
1754-1759. He was also installed by Gazi ud din. The Marathas, in
collaboration with Gazi ud din, consolidated their power in the
north during his reign. In 1756, the Afghan, Ahmad Shah Abdali, invaded India and
plundered Mathura. Aziz ud din was murdered in 1759.
Shah Jahan III, or Muhi ul millat, was a Mughal emperor for a very
short time. He was the grandson of Aurangzeb. He was placed on the
Mughal throne in 1759 but subsequently deposed by Gazi ud din
in 1760. In 1759, Delhi was briefly captured by the Marathas.
The unhappy Farrukhsiyar, puppet of the manipulative Sayid brothers
Shah Alam II (b.1728-d.1806) was also known as Ali Gauhar. He was
the son of Alamgir II. As a prince he was completely under the sway
of the vazir, Gazi ud din, but to break away he escaped from Delhi and tried to
establish himself in Bengal. Upon his father's assassination by Gazi ud din, he declared himself emperor. He was under the
India Company's patronage for a long time, until the Marathas, who
had occupied Delhi in 1771, invited him to become the emperor in
Under his able general Mirza Nazaf Khan (who was later to be
sidelined), Shah Alam II marched towards Delhi. On the way he had successes
against the Afghan Rohillas and the Jats, collecting huge revenues
from them. He also launched several attacks on the Sikhs, but being a
poor judge of character he chose some unsuitable people to lead
the Mughal army. They colluded with the Sikhs, forcing a Mughal
retreat. Shah Alam, realising the indispensable nature of his general, Mirza Najaf Khan, again invited him to lead the Mughal forces. But
after Mirza Najaf's death, Shah Alam once again relied on the old
traitors. This wrecked the Mughal empire from within. The Marathas
too had evacuated Delhi. Sensing an opportunity, the Afghan Rohillas
marched on Delhi in 1788, but financially, Delhi was already
bankrupt. Finding nothing to loot, the Afghans blinded Shah Alam II
just before the Marathas returned to save him and drove away the Rohillas.
Akbar Shah II, the son of Shah Alam II and a puppet emperor.
The blind emperor ruled for some time, but it was evident
that the Mughal empire was a pale shadow of its former self.
With Maratha power also waning, the British attacked Delhi in
1803. The emperor was helpless against them. The British kept Shah Alam as a figurehead until his death in 1806,
and his son,
Akbar Shah II (b.1760-d.1837) replaced him in the same
Bahadur Shah Zafar (b.1775-d.1862) was the last Mughal emperor,
and was the son of Akbar Shah II. He was a old man when he ascended the
throne, and was better known as a poet than an emperor. He
patronised famous poets and writers of his time such as Mirza Ghalib
and lived on a pension offered by the East India Company. When the sepoy mutiny of 1857 took place, the rebel leaders urged Zafar to
let the rebel forces unite under his banner. After the failure of
the mutiny, Zafar was imprisoned by the British and exiled to
Rangoon (Burma), where he died. His departure marked the end of
three centuries of Mughal rule in India.
The arches of the Lal Qila, or Red Fort, built from red
sandstone from Agra
The last emperor, Bahadur Shah II Zafar, was already an old
man when he came to the throne
Prasad, L - Studies in Indian History,
Cosmos Bookhive, Gurgaon, 2000
Spear, Percival - The History of