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Feature Sultanate of Delhi

This sultanate in India was founded by a slave of the Ghurid sultan, Mohammed III, following the defeat in 1194 of the Hindu Rajputs of Amer and Gahadavala who governed much of the region. The Ghurids were based further west, in what today forms part of Afghanistan but what was then southern Khorasan and other territories.

The sultanate began in Lahore, but subsequent rulers extended their territory eastwards and Delhi became the capital. Under later rulers, especially the Moghuls, the sultanate rose to become one of the greatest empires in Indian history, subjugating almost the entire sub-continent. Later in-fighting and political weakness led to the rise of several opposing groups, and the power of the sultanate was ended in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Mu'izzi (Shamsi) Slave Kings
AD 1206 - 1290

The founder of the dynasty, Qutub uddin Aibak, was a Turkic ex-slave (Mamluk) of the Aybak tribe who rose to command the armies and administer the territory of Muhammed Ghori (the Ghurid invader) in India. Muhammad Ghori died in 1206 without an heir. After a battle of succession, Qutub uddin Aibak took possession of Muhammad Ghori's Indian empire. He established his capital first at Lahore, and later at Delhi. From there, the subject province of Oudh was also controlled.

(Additional information by Abhijit Rajadhyaksha.)

1206 - 1210

Aybak Qutb ad Din / Qutub uddin Aibak

Malik in Lahore. Former slave of the Ghurids.

1205 - 1206

Lakshamana of Bengal's Sena dynasty is defeated by the Turkic slave general, Bakhtiar Khilji, although much of Bengal itself remains free. The conquered areas become a province under the control of the slave dynasty at Delhi and they are administered locally by the Khilji Malik dynasty. A similar attempt to conquer the Khen kings of Assam is beaten back.

1210 - 1211

Aram Shah

1211 - 1236

Iltutmish Shams ad Din

Sultan in Delhi. m daughter of Qutub uddin Aibak.

1215

The Ghurids are displaced in Afghanistan by the Khwarazm Shahs. The remaining Ghurid territories in northern India, including in Punjab, are taken over by the Delhi sultanate, now ruling in its own right.

1224 - 1227

The conquest of Bihar by the Khilji ruler of Bengal irks the sultan. He attacks Bengal and forces a treaty on its ruler, making him cede eight million takas and thirty eight elephants and making him re-avow his vassalage to Delhi. The Khilji ruler recants as soon as the sultan is back in Delhi, so a fresh campaign is launched against him. In 1226, Ghiyasuddin Iwaj Khilji is killed and his army routed, and Delhi takes direct charge of Bengal for over fifty years.

1227 - 1228

With the second Turkish invasion of Assam being defeated in 1227, the Delhi sultan deals with the recalcitrant Khen kings once and for all, killing Prithu in 1228 and subjugating his territories. Carried away with his success, he also goes on to attack Tibet.

1236

Fīruz Shah I

1236 - 1240

Radiyya Begum / Razia

Sultana. Daughter of Iltutmish.

1240 - 1242

Bahram Shah

1242 - 1246

Allauddin Masud Shah

1246

The king of Orissa invades southern Bengal, and the governor there is forced to seeks help from his master in Delhi. Masud Shah asks the governor of Oudh, Tughlaq Tamar Khan, to go to Bengal's rescue. But after having repulsed the Oriyan attack, Tughlaq himself assumes the governorship of Bengal, forcing the deposed governor to flee to Delhi. In compensation, the sultan makes him governor of Oudh.

1246 - 1266

Mahmud Shah I

1250 - 1257

Following the re-establishment of independent Khen rule in Assam in 1250, a second invasion of the kingdom takes place, led probably by the Mameluke governor of Bengal, Malik Ikhtiyaruddin Iuzbak. Ultimately it is unsuccessful.

1266 - 1287

Ghiyasuddin Balban Ulugh Khan

Viceroy since 1246.

1266

Balban confirms the claim of independence by the governor (now king) of Bengal, Tatar Khan, in return for Tatar Khan's promise of support in future battles.

1279

The sultanate of Madurai, a minor vassal state in southern India, is taken from the Chola empire by Delhi.

1279 - 1281

The king of Bengal, Tughral, ransacks Jajnagar in Orissa and recovers a large amount of booty. Balban sends a huge army from Delhi, led by Malik Turmati, the ruler of Oudh, to put him down. Tughral defeats not only this army, but also the even larger army which is subsequently sent against him. On the third occasion, Sultan Balban himself leads the attack against Tughral in 1280. Tughral flees to Jajnagar, but he is pursued and killed in battle.

1281?

The Deva king of eastern Bengal, Danuja Madhav Dasaratha Deva, enters into a treaty with Balban, on equal terms. The meeting between them at Sonargaon is vividly described in Tarih-I-Mubarak Shahi.

Kaykhusraw / Kaikhusru

Grandson. Heir to the throne, but murdered by Kay Qubadh.

1287 - 1290

Kay Qubadh / Kaiqubadh

Cousin, and son of Mahmud Shah of Bengal.

1287 - 1290

The real power rests in the hands of the wazir, Nizammuddin. Mahmud Shah marches on Delhi intent on taking the throne for himself, but father and son instead reach an understanding and the wazir is ousted. However, Kay Qubadh is soon murdered by his own general, Jalaluddin Khilji, who briefly places the infant Kayumarth on the throne as his figurehead before removing him and declaring his own Khilji dynasty in Delhi.

1290

Kayumarth

Infant son. Controlled and quickly deposed by Jalaluddin Khilji.

Khalji Dynasty
AD 1290 - 1320

Jalaluddin Khilji (Aladin Khilji) had been a general in the army of the Mu'izzi slave kings at Delhi, but weakness became apparent in the ruling dynasty, and the general seized his chance to take control. Initially governing from behind the throne, he soon felt secure enough to openly declare himself to be the founder of a new dynasty in Delhi. His short-lived Khilji dynasty ruled northern India and the Deccan from their capital at Delhi.

1290 - 1296

Fīruz Shah II Khaljī / Jalaluddin Khilji

Former general for the Mu'izzi.

1293/4 - 1301/2

The Bhatti Rajput leader Jethsi faces an eight year siege at Jaisalmer by Sultan Aladin Khilji. Tradition has it that when the Bhatti Rajputs are sure of their impending defeat, they kill their womenfolk, with some committing 'Jauhar' by jumping into the fire lest they be defiled by the enemy. The males, the warriors, march from the fort, heading straight for their enemy and a final massacre.

1294

Devagiri is invaded by Jalaluddin (or Aladin) Khilji, ending the superiority of the Yadava dynasty there. Aladin rules the Deccan from Delhi, aided by the native rulers who are now vassals. His armies are then sent into other areas of India, to conquer in the name of the sultans of Delhi.

1296

Ibrahim Shah I Qadir Khan

1296 - 1316

Muhammad Shah I Ali Garshasp / Alladin

1303

The Rajput state of Mewar is conquered by the sultan's army.

1310 - 1313

The sultan sends his general, Malik Kafur, to attack and defeat the Yadavas of Devagiri, weakening their power in the Deccan. One of their vassals, the Kadambas of Goa, declares independence, so Malik Kafur attacks them, destroying their capital at Goa. In 1313, the king of the Yadavas attempts to challenge Delhi's overlordship of Devagiri, but is killed in battle.

1316

Umar Shah

1316 - 1320

Mubacicrak Shah

1320

Khusraw Khan Barwari

Tughlaq (Tughluk) Dynasty
AD 1320 - 1414

Like their Khalji predecessors, the Tughlaq dynasty initially ruled the Deccan plateau from Delhi. However, weakness on their part meant an ever increasing number of regional governors and warlords saw a chance of power, and the Deccan was largely lost between 1336-1347.

1320 - 1325

Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq Shah I

1324

Bengal is attacked by Sultan Tughlaq Shah and its king is taken prisoner and hauled off to Delhi. Bengal becomes a governed province.

1325 - 1351

Muhammad Bin Tughlaq Shah II

Son.

1325 - 1328

The imprisoned king of Bengal is released by the new sultan and created governor of Sonargaon (south-east Bengal). However, he declares himself independent in 1328 and is attacked by Delhi. General Bahram Khan of Delhi attacks and kills the king and is made the Tughlaq governor of Sonargaon.

1327 - 1345

The Pandya king appeals to Delhi for help in his civil war, but instead the Tughlaqs invade and destroy the kingdom, ending Hindu rule and starting a Mahomedan overlordship.

1334

The Yadava dynasty at Devagiri is ended, with the kingdom being annexed by Delhi. Soon afterwards, the fading Kadambas of Goa also fail, probably due to a raid by the forces of Tughlaq Shah II.

1336 - 1347

Tughlaq power fails to retain control of the Deccan and southern India, and two brothers, Harihara (Hakka) I and Bukka Raya, take the opportunity to lay the foundations of the Vijaynagar empire in the south in 1336. They are not the only ones to take control from Delhi. A patchwork of states emerges, including those at Arcot, Kondavidu, Madurai, and the Bahamani sultanate in the Deccan, the last of which is formed in 1347.

1351 - 1388

Forum / Ferozshah / Firoz Shah III

c.1350s-1380s

The second Jauhar at Jaisalmer takes place under circumstances similar to the last, this time against Sultan Ferozshah,

1388 - 1389

Tughluq Shah II

1389 - 1391

Abu Bakr Shah

1389 - 1394

Muhammad Shah III

1394

Sikandar Shah I

1394 - 1395

Mahmud Shah II

1395 - 1399

Nusrat Shah

1398

The Persian ruler, Timur, subjugates Multan (in modern Pakistan), and then Dipalpur (in India), in a lighting conquest that defeats all who stand up to it. He also takes Delhi and initially governs his captured territory peacefully. However, after several of his troops are killed by the locals, he orders them to ravage and loot the city. Then he departs for Transoxiana and Persia, leaving behind him a fragmented India in which only the strongest Muslim leader will survive.

1401 - 1412

Mahmud Shah II

1406

Rao Chanda gains full power in Marwar & Jodhpur after wresting then from the Islamic rulers of Delhi. From this point onwards, Marwar is ruled by the Rathores.

1412 - 1414

Dawlat Khan Lodī

Sayyid Dynasty
AD 1414 - 1451

Khidr Khan is left in command of Delhi as the vassal of Timur, whose sweeping conquests range from Northern India to Anatolia and who founds the Timurid dynasty of rulers in Persia.

1414 - 1421

Khidr Khan

Persian vassal.

1421 - 1434

Mubarak Shah II

Persian vassal.

1434 - 1443

Muhammad Shah IV

Persian vassal.

1443 - 1451

Alam Shah

Persian vassal.

Lodi / Lodhi Dynasty
AD 1451 - 1526

The Lodis were Afghans. One of their number, named Bahlul Lodi, invades Delhi with the support of tribal warriors, and seizes the throne from the Timurid-sponsored Sayyids. He is the founder of the Lodi dynasty.

(Additional information by Abhijit Rajadhyaksha.)

1451 - 1489

Bahlul / Buhlol / Buhlul Lodi

1489 - 1517

Sikandar II Nizam Khan

1494

Alauddin Husain Shah usurps the sultanate of Bengal and murdering the last member of the Habshi dynasty. His reign as the first Husaini sultan witnesses the widespread territorial expansion of the sultanate, and he secures his western frontier against the onslaught of the Lodis.

1517 - 1526

Ibrahim II

Son.

1517 - 1526

Neither the popular leader his father had been, nor as good a ruler, Ibrahim faces a number of rebellions by nobles within the sultanate, including his uncle, Alam Khan Lodhi, as well as pressure from outside. Rana Sanga, ruler of Mewar, extends his own territory at Delhi's expense. From 1519, the ruler of Kabul, Babar, also leads a great many raids on Delhi. In 1526, he is invited by the nobility to invade, and Ibrahim is killed at the Battle of Panipat. Babar creates a Moghul empire which sacks and then controls Delhi as the heart of that empire.

1526 - 1529

Mahmud Lodhi

Nephew. Defeated by Babur in 1529 with his Bengali ally.

FeatureMogul / Moghul Dynasty
AD 1526 - 1540

The region of Farghana in Transoxiana was a small Timurid principality which had sub-divided from the greater Timurid possessions around Samarkand in the late fifteenth century. The Shaibanid conquest of the region in 1500 sent the principality's heir, Babur, heading for Kabul (in modern Afghanistan), which he conquered in 1504. From 1519, he had given up on regaining his homeland and was raiding eastwards towards Delhi. Based on his ancestor's Timurid conquest of the region and the setting up of the vassal Sayyids, Babur claimed to be the rightful heir to Delhi, and he achieved his claim by conquering the Lodhi rulers of the sultanate of Delhi in 1526, founding the Moghul empire.

The Great Moguls are shown in green, interrupted briefly by the Suri conquest of Delhi in 1540. (Additional information by Abhijit Rajadhyaksha.)

1526 - 1530

Babur / Babar

FeatureTimurid prince from Kabul.

1526 - 1529

Babur sacks the sultanate of Delhi and incorporates it under his rule, establishing an Islamic dynasty in India with victory at the Battle of Panipat, one which stretches from Delhi to Kabul. The following year, Babur increases his territory by defeating the ruler of Mewar, Rana Sanga, and conquering his territories. In 1528 it is the turn of Rana Sanga's vassal, Medina Rai of Malwa to be defeated. In 1529, Babur defeats a coalition force led by Mahmud Lodhi, the nephew of Ibrahim Lodhi, and Nusrat Shah, the Afghan ruler of Bengal.

Auguste Racinet print of Babur
Babur sets out with his army in this depiction by Auguste Racinet from the 19th century

1530 - 1540

Humayun

FeatureSon. Exiled 1540-1556.

1530

Humayun's generous nature, and also his wish to avoid sibling conflict, means that he gives sections of the empire to his brothers to control.

Kamran Mirza

Brother. Ruled in Kabul and Ghazni.

Askari

Brother. Ruled in Sambhal (1530-1538?) and Gujarat (1532-1533).

Hindal

Brother. Ruled in Mewat (1530-1539?).

1531 - 1532

Almost right away, Humayun faces problems when the Afghan adventurer, Sher Shah Suri, attacks and seizes the fort of Chunar, while simultaneously, Mahmud Lodhi resurfaces and approaches Jaunpur. Humayun convincingly defeats the latter at the Battle of Dauharia, but a four month siege of Chunar fails to deliver the fort back to him. Yet another enemy surfaces in the form of Bahadur Shah of Gujarat, an ally of the shah of Bengal who attempts to invade Rajputana, taking Malwa (1531) and Raisen (1532). Humayun makes a quick treaty with Sher Shah Suri and rushes to defeat Bahadur Shah near Mandsor, recapturing Malwa and taking Gujarat. Askari is placed as governor in Gujarat.

1531

Mahmud Lodhi

Nephew of Ibrahim II Lodhi. Second attempt to regain Delhi.

1533

A revolt is stirred up against Askari in Gujarat and it is re-taken by its former ruler, Bahadur Shah, who goes on to capture Champaner and Malwa. Askari flees to Agra.

1535 - 1539

Humayun tries to cut Sher Shah Suri down to size by capturing Chunar after a six-month siege, and then takes Bengal. There, he wastes valuable time, allowing his enemy time to regroup and capture Benaras, Kara and Sambhal, ending Askari's rule there. Humayun is further distracted when his youngest brother proclaims himself emperor at Agra. Humayun abandons Bengal to Sher Shah Suri in order to confront Hindal, who immediately surrenders to him.

1539

Hindal

Self-proclaimed emperor (at Agra only).

1539 - 1540

Pardoning all three of his rebellious brothers, Humayun faces Sher Shah Suri at the Battle of Bilgram, in which he is defeated and routed. First Agra and then Delhi are taken by Sher Shah Suri. Humayun goes into exile and over the next three years he travels to Amarkot (where he allies himself to the raja of Jodhpur), Lahore (ruled by Kamran of Kabul), and finally to the court of the Safavid shah of Persia.

Suri Dynasty
AD 1540 - 1555

The Afghan Sher Shah Suri, who had seized the sultanate of Bengal in 1533, shortly after also capturing the fort of Chunar and much of Bihar from Humayun, son of Babur, led the fight against Moghul conquest in India. He proved to be the most implacable enemy of Humayun, forcing him out of Delhi for the duration of the new Suri dynasty's existence, and taking territory far to the west. Once he had captured Delhi, his conquests in Bengal were handed over to a regional governor.

(Additional information by Abhijit Rajadhyaksha.)

1540 - 1545

Sher Shah Suri

Shah of Bengal. Conquered Delhi from the Moghuls.

c.1539

Honouring the final wish of Babur as to his resting place, Sher Shah Suri moves the Moghul emperor's body from Agra to the Bagh-e Babur in Kabul.

1545 - 1554

Islam Shah Sur

Son. Another strong ruler.

1554 - 1555

The death of Islam Shah Suri leaves the dynasty weak and open to rival claimants, of which their are many. The most powerful of these is the resurgent Humayun, who leads his army eastwards from Kabul in a string of impressive victories. In Bengal, the governor declares his own independence from Delhi.

1554

Firoz Shah

Son of Sikander Shah. Killed by Mubariz Khan.

1554

Muhammad V Adil Shah / Mubariz Khan

Uncle and usurper.

1554 - 1555

Ibrahim III Khan

1555 - 1556

Ahmad Khan Sikandar Shah III

1555 - 1556

Humayun, son of Babur, finally re-conquers the sultanate and incorporates it back into the Moghul empire.

Mogul / Moghul Dynasty
AD 1555 - 1858

Just a decade after the death of the great Timurid conqueror of Delhi, Babar, his son Humayun was forced out of the country by continual warfare and the loss of Delhi itself in 1540. Humayun spent three years in exile in Amrakot, seeking aid from the amir of Sindh and the raja of Jodhpur, before retiring to the safety of Persia, where he lived at the court of the Safavid shahs. In 1545 he received a Persian army with which to conquer Kabul. In 1554-1556 he was able to re-conquer Delhi from the Suris, reuniting the Moghul empire's territories in India. His time in Persia created a subsequent shift in Moghul influence in India, from Central Asian to Persian.

The Great Moguls are shown in green. (Additional information by Abhijit Rajadhyaksha.)

1555 - 1556

Humayun

Restored. Died in an accident.

1556

Just a year or so after his final victory over the Suris and his triumphant re-entry into Delhi, Humayun dies after the most mundane of accidents - falling down the stairs.

Humayun's tomb
Humayun's tomb in New Delhi

1556

Hemu

Born in Alwar. Rival for the throne.

1556

FeatureOne of the first challenges for Humayun's successor, Akbar, is when Hemu, a minister of the former Suri dynasty sultans, leads an army in the name of the sultan to take Agra from the young emperor. Akbar marshals his forces and heads off Hemu before he can reach Delhi, defeating him and executing him afterwards.

1556 - 1605

Akbar I the Great

FeatureSon.

1556

Akbar proves to be one of the most enlightened and popular Moghul rulers, being viewed by his subjects as a son of India rather than a foreign conqueror. He does conquer, though, incorporating many more regions within the empire, and cementing many alliances through his marriages to Hindu princesses, but he also establishes a very important level of harmony between Muslims and Hindus.

1561 - 1562

The Moghul army defeats Ghiyasuddin Bahadur Shah of Bengal in 1561 and the following year Baz Bahadur of Gujarat is also defeated and Malwa retaken.

1563

The regents of Gondwana, Durgavati and Vir Narayan, die fighting on the battlefield as Akbar attacks and defeats the kingdom. Gondwana is pulled into the Moghul empire.

1564 - 1566

The Uzbek princes Khan Zaman and his brother, Bahadur Khan, are descendants of the Timurid forces which had invaded India with Babur and are descended from Mohammed Shaibani, founder of the Shaibanid empire in Central Asia. They decide to test Akbar's authority, and Abdullah Khan, governor of Malwa, openly revolts against Akbar. The emperor is forced to march against him, ejecting him and his supporters into still-independent Gujarat. In 1565, Akbar attempts to regain control of the Uzbeks, but this sparks off a general Uzbek rebellion and they seize several eastern provinces.

As part of the general confusion, in 1566 the governor of Kabul threatens Lahore, while at the same time the elderly Muhammed Sultan Mirza decides pursue his superior claim to the Moghul throne (he is descended from Timur's second son, while Akbar is descended from his third). However, Akbar's forces remain loyal and capture the rebel prince, while the remaining Mirzas seek refuge with Rajput princes such as that of Mewar. The Uzbek princes support Muhammed Sultan Mirza but now Akbar defeats and kills them and drives the Mirzas to seek refuge in Gujarat.

1566

Muhammed Sultan Mirza

Rival claimant to the throne.

1566

Khan Zaman

Rebel Shaibanid Uzbek prince. Killed.

1566

Bahadur Khan

Brother. Killed.

1566 - 1570

After accepting Bengal's submission, Akbar takes on the might of the Rajputs. He sends his emissaries to various Rajput princes, asking them to accept his suzerainty but, knowing the Rajput reputation for valour, he uses subtle diplomacy to win them over, entering into marriage alliances with many of them. The ruler of Amer, Raja Bharmal, gives his daughter to Akbar and sets the precedent. Akbar inducts Raja Bharmal's son, Bhagwandas, and grandson, Man Singh, into his body of high ranking courtiers. Maharana Uday Singh of Mewar refuses the offer, so Akbar attacks him and annexes half his kingdom. Between 1564-1570, Akbar completes his conquest of the rajas by taking Kalinjar and Ranthambor, and gaining the submission of the rulers of Bikaner, Bundi, Jaisalmer, and Marwar & Jodhpur. In the next decade he also conquers Gujarat, and Bihar.

1576

The legendary Pratap Singh of Mewar also refuses to follow Akbar's bidding. In 1576, Akbar meets him at the famous Battle of Haldighati. In a struggle that is comparable in Indian warfare to the bravery of the Spartans at Thermopylae, the Rajputs fight valiantly but are outnumbered. Pratap Singh escapes to the adjoining jungles and continues his struggle from there, waging a guerrilla war against Akbar until his death.

1581

Akbar's cousin, Mirza Muhammed Hakim, rebel governor of Kabul, has gained the governor of Ghazni as an ally, so Akbar sends his Rajput general, Man Singh, to attack Kabul. Man Singh captures the city in 1581, while Ghazni is peacefully surrendered by its erstwhile governor.

1586 - 1600

Akbar completes his northern campaigns between 1586-1595 by taking Kashmir (1586), and then Sindh (1591). Orissa (ancient Kalinga), which is already a subsidiary of the empire, rebels, but only to be annexed in 1592. With the fall of Baluchistan in 1595, Akbar's authority in the north is unquestioned. Then between 1595-1600 he campaigns in the Deccan plateau and central India, taking the states of Ahmednagar, Berar, Bijapur, and Golconda, along with the regions of Burhanpur and Khandesh. By 1600 he is the undisputed ruler of almost the entire Indian subcontinent.

1592

Overlordship of the Bhoi dynasty of Orissa is removed from Syed Khan of Bengal and passes directly into the hands of the Moghuls. Despite being vassals, the Bhoi kings fight Moghul overlordship.

1605 - 1627

Jahangir / Jehangir

FeatureSon.

Khusrav / Khusru

Son. Revolted, supported by Man Singh of Amer. Killed 1622.

1605 - 1615

Jahangir continues the Moghul campaigns against Mewar, encountering stiff resistance all the way. Many battles take place in this period (noticeably the first conflicts with the Ahom kings of Assam), but one notable victory for the ranas is when Amar Singh wins back the fort of Chittor. In 1615 Amar Singh agrees to sign a peace treaty on the advice of courtiers and his son, Prince Karan Singh. He agrees to accept the suzerainty of the Moghuls in return for the restoration of Mewar's territories.

1606

The Sikhs are punished for helping Khusrav, Their leader, Arjun Dev, is killed, and his son succeeds him and raises an army, opposing the Moghuls openly. Only a few skirmishes result from this until later in the century.

1616

The king of Derrang, Balinarayana, fights a war against the Moghuls who are attacking the Assam region, and fends them off with help from the Ahoms.

1617 - 1621

In 1617, Jahangir enforces a treaty on the Nizamshah of Ahmednagar after a staunch resistance by the latter. The Nizamshah fails to adhere to the terms of the treaty, so in 1621 Prince Khurram, the emperor's son, is sent to subdue the region and enforce a new treaty. This time Nizamshah is forced to cede a major part of Ahmednagar to the Moghuls.

1623

Prince Khurram (Shah Jahan) resents the influence of Nur Jahan, his father's more recent wife, over the royal court and rebels against his father. One of Jahangir's generals, Mahabat Khan, humiliated by Nur Jahan and her brother, Asaf Khan, joins that rebellion. Taking advantage of Shah Jahan's revolt, the Persians capture Ghazni. Eventually the rebellion is forced down.

1627

Shahryar

Son-in-law of Queen Nur Jahan. Killed.

1627 - 1628

Jahangir dies while his heir, Shah Jahan, is campaigning on the Deccan plateau to the south. The favoured son-in-law of his main rival, Queen Nur Jahan, declares himself emperor in Lahore, but the main players behind the throne, including the head of the army, all support Shah Jehan, and Shahryar is killed on his orders. As part of the counter against Shahryar, Dawar Bakhsh is proclaimed emperor by Asaf Khan, Shah Jehan's father-in-law, and holds the position for three months until Shah Jahan can return and take the throne for himself. Dawar Bakhsh retires to Persia.

1627 - 1628

Dawar Bakhsh

Son of Khusrav. Reigned for three months.

1628 - 1658

Shah Jahan I Khusraw (Khurram)

FeatureSon of Jahangir. Imprisoned by Aurangzeb. Died 1666.

1629 - 1636

The Moghul governor of the recently conquered Deccan territories, Khan Jahan Lodi, makes an alliance with the Nizamshah of Ahmednagar. He also garners support from Golconda and Bijapur. By 1636, the rebels in Ahmednagar have lost the war, and the Nizam shahi is extinguished. Golconda and Bijapur also have to accept Moghul suzerainty.

1631 - 1653

FeatureDespite pushing the empire's borders even further south over the Deccan plateau, Shah Jahan achieves everlasting recognition through his construction of the Taj Mahal mausoleum for his dead wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Her death in 1631 prompts him to construct the mausoleum, the main part of which is completed in 1648. The surrounding gardens and additional buildings are completed in 1653.

The Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal was built for Shah Jahan's beloved wife, Mumtaj Mahal, but he was later laid there himself, in 1666

1638 - 1648

Buoyed by his successes in the Deccan against Golconda and Bijapur, Shah Jahan retakes Ghazni, which had been lost to the Persians in 1623. However, they manage to take it back just ten years later, and it is permanently lost to the Moghuls.

1657 - 1659

A war of succession erupts when Shah Jahan falls ill. After defeating Dara Shukoh in battle using a mixture of guile and bravery, Aurangzeb seizes power in 1658. He imprisons his ill father and kills off his surviving brothers, Dara Shukoh and Murad Bux.

Dara Shukoh / Shaikoh

Son and heir. Killed by Aurangzeb (1658).

1658 - 1707

Aurangzeb Ālamgir I / Awrangzīb

FeatureBrother. Governor of the Deccan until 1658.

Shah Shuja

Brother. Governor of Bengal. Killed by Dara Shukoh (1657).

Murad Bux

Brother. Governor of Gujarat. Killed by Aurangzeb (1659).

Muhammed

Son of Aurangzeb. Governor of the Deccan.

1661

The Sikhs had maintained good relations with Dara Shukoh, but his brother, Aurangzeb, dislikes them for just that reason and attempts to install his own man to control them. The Sikhs ignore this and proclaim their own successor, who is imprisoned by Aurangzeb in the hope of persuading him to embrace Islam. He refuses and is tortured to death over five days.

1669 - 1670

The Jats rise up against the local Muslim officer, Abdul Nabi, killing him and looting his tehsil at Sadabad. Aurangzeb orders the destruction of the Keshav Dev temple in retaliation in 1670, which further inflames the Jats. Around 20,000 of them attack Moghul posts, prompting Aurangzeb to confront and defeat them at the Battle of Tilpat. However, a further uprising moves them towards eventual independence.

1671

General Lachit Borphukan of the Ahom kingdom in Assam stems Moghul expansionism by defeating their more powerful army at Guwhati during the Battle of Saraighat. The Ahom troops use the terrain to their advantage, coupled with every other trick in the book to demoralise and disorder their opponents.

1675 - 1678

In 1675, Gobind Singh leads the Sikhs into forming a warrior culture which challenges the Moghuls, fighting them continuously. Two years later, while the Rajput kings of Amer and Marwar have been loyal servants to Aurangzeb, the emperor has been plotting behind their backs to reduce the Rajputs' special status within the empire. With the death of both rulers, one of whom has been fighting on behalf of the empire in Afghanistan, Aurangzeb puts his plan into operation, but it leads to guerrilla warfare.

1686

On 12 September, Aurangzeb's forces conquer the sultanate of Bijapur and incorporate the region into the empire. However, the growing power of the Marathas in the Deccan soon takes Bijapur out of Moghul control. The Jats rise up again under a new leader, which eventually leads to their independence being secured.

1705 - 1707

In 1705, the regent of the Marathas, Tarabai, leads her forces across the River Narmada and enters Malwa, then in Moghul hands. The ensuing battle is a decisive one. The Marathas emerge victorious after a drawn-out and fiercely-fought battle, effectively ending Moghul dominance on the Indian subcontinent. In an otherwise competent reign filled with Muslim Puritanism, Aurangzeb has alienated many of his Hindu subjects and has faced a large number of rebellions, plus constant battles against the Marathas in the Deccan.

FeatureFollowing his death two years later, the empire is ruled by a series of weak emperors who witness the slow diminution of their power and territory. The first vassals to become independent are Bundelkhand and Marwar.

1707 - 1712

Bahadur Shah I / Shah Alam I Bahadur

Son.

1712

Although in 1707 Bahadur Shah had been forced to fight off his brothers to claim the throne, he is already quite old, and his reign is benevolent but short. His tolerant approach does achieve peace with the Sikhs, however. His son comes to the throne in much the same way as him - by fighting off his brother, Azim us Shan. Unfortunately, the dead prince's son, Farrukhsiyar, successfully challenges his uncle for the throne just a year later.

1712 - 1713

Jahandar Shah / Jahandar Muizz ad Din

Son. Killed by Farrukhsiyar.

Azim us Shan

Brother. Killed in conflict for the throne.

1713

Farrukhsiyar challenges for the throne with the support of the two Sayid brothers, one of whom had been the governor of Allahabad and the other the governor of Patna. However the brothers prove to be the power behind the throne, controlling the emperor as their puppet. Muhammed Sayyed of Daud Khan and Arcot would appear to be a relation of theirs.

1713 - 1719

Farrukhsiyar / Farrukh-siyar

Son of Azim us Shan. Puppet in the hands of Sayid brothers.

1713 - c.1720

Sayid Husein Ali

Wazir (prime minister).

1713 - c.1720

Sayid Abdullah Ali

Brother and army commander.

1717

Farrukhsiyar allows the British East India Company to purchase duty-free trading rights in Bengal, although so weak is his authority that the governor of Bengal ignores him and continues to collect duty tax. Shortly afterwards, Farrukhsiyar attempts to stand up to the Sayid brothers, but is deposed and possibly murdered by them. They install his nephew instead.

Lal Qila or Red Fort
The arches of the Lal Qila, or Red Fort, built from red sandstone from Agra

1719

Shams ad Dīn Rafi ul Darjat

Nephew and a puppet in the hands of the Sayid brothers. Died.

1719

Nikusiyar Muhammad

Uncle. Unsuccessful challenger for the throne. Died 1743.

1719

Rafi ul Darjat is briefly and unsuccessfully challenged by his uncle, Nikusiyar. He dies later in 1719, after enthroning his brother, Rafi ul Daulat on the throne. That emperor lasts just months. His place is filled by Muhammad Shah, another Sayid puppet who turns the tables on them, removing them in a coup (although the Sayyed ruler of Arcot appears to remain in place). The following year, the nizams of Hyderabad become independent of the Moghuls.

1719

Shah Jahan II Rafi ul Daulat

Brother of Rafi ul Darjat. Another puppet.

1719 - 1748

Muhammad Shah Nasir ad Dīn

Grandson of Bahadur Shah I.

1737 - 1739

Delhi is attacked by the Maratha imperial army under the leadership of the Peshwa general, Baji Rao. Two years later, in 1739, the looting of Delhi by the Persian Nadir Shah takes place. Despite the support of loyalists such as Muhammed Amin of Oudh, Muhammad Shah is defeated and humiliated, his authority destroyed, and thousands of his people are killed. The Moghul empire fragments into a loose association of states.

1748 - 1753

Ahmad Bahadur Shah I

Abdicated through illness. Murdered by wazir Gazi ud din in 1775.

1754 - 1775

Gazi ud din

Wazir and power behind the throne.

1753 - 1754

Following the sacking of Delhi by the Jats in 1753, Gazi ud din controls the throne from 1754, installing the next emperor and working with the Marathas to help them consolidate their power in the north. After his murder of Ahmad Bahadur Shah I in 1775, he escapes punishment by going on pilgrimage to Mecca.

1754 - 1759

Aziz ud din Alamgir II

Installed by Gazi ud din and eventually murdered.

1756 - 1757

In 1756, the Afghan, Ahmad Shah Abdali, invades India and plunders Mathura. The next year the British East India Company are victorious over the nawab of Bengal, an ally of the French, which signals the end of any serious French ambitions in India.

1759 - 1760

Shah Jahan III / Muhi ul millat

Grandson of Aurangzeb. Deposed by Gazi ud din.

1759

Delhi is briefly captured by the Marathas.

1760 - 1788

Shah Alam II (Ali Gauhar)

Son of Alamgir II. Initially a puppet.

1766

The British East India Company establishes the Bengal presidency, followed by the position of governor general, in order to govern its increasingly intricate involvement in Indian political life.

1771

Delhi is again captured by the Marathas, but this time they hold onto it for a longer period.

1775

After fleeing to Bengal to escape the control of Gazi ud din, when his father, the former emperor Bahadur Shah I is murdered in 1775, Shah Alam proclaims himself emperor (independent of any control). In fact, he is under the patronage of the British East India Company until the Marathas invite him to Delhi to become emperor in fact as well as name.

1788

The Marathas have recently evacuated Delhi, so the opportunistic Afghan Rohillas march on the city, but financially, Delhi is already bankrupt. Finding nothing to loot, the Afghans blind Shah Alam II just before the Marathas return to save him and drive away the Rohillas. The short-lived puppet emperor, Bidar Baksh II is also removed as the Marathas support the diminished Shah Alam II.

1788

Bidar Baksh II / Bīdar-bakht

Son of Ahmad Bahadur Shah I. Puppet.

1788

Ghulam Qadir

Power behind Bidar Baksh II.

1788 - 1806

Shah Alam II

Restored, but crippled.

1803

With Maratha power also waning, the British attack Delhi. The emperor is helpless against them, and they keep him as a figurehead until his death.

1806 - 1837

Akbar Shah II

Son. British puppet.

1837 - 1858

Bahadur Shah II Zafar

Son. Aged 61 when enthroned. Exiled to Rangoon and died 1862.

1857 - 1858

The Indian Mutiny (Great Sepoy Rebellion, or even the First War of Independence, according to some) over British rule erupts among the East India Company's Indian Army units at Meerut, near Delhi, but after some hard fighting in places it is suppressed.

The Indian Mutiny of 1857
Incident in the Subzee Mundee, a watercolour of the Indian Mutiny or rebellion of 1857 by British artist G F Atkinson

The mutiny ends with the recapture of Delhi by troops loyal to the East India Company. The last Moghul emperor is deposed and the British Parliament places it under direct control of the empire's Viceroys, whilst subject or allied princes rule various small Early Modern states.