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Causes of Decline of Mughal Empire

Causes of Decline of Mughal Empire

The initiation of the Mughal Empire’s decline can be pinpointed to the robust governance of Aurangzeb. Inheriting an expansive realm, he pursued a policy of aggressive expansion, pushing the empire’s borders to the southernmost geographical limits. However, this approach came at a substantial cost, both in terms of human resources and materials. The relentless drive for territorial enlargement during Aurangzeb’s reign ultimately contributed significantly to the Empire’s downfall.

Religious Cause

Shift from Secular Foundations

The Mughal Empire, under the reigns of Akbar, Jahangir, and Shahjahan, stood as a bastion of secularism. Its stability was rooted in a policy of noninterference with the religious practices of its diverse populace, fostering harmonious relations between Hindus and Muslims.

Aurangzeb’s Controversial Measures

Aurangzeb, however, marked a departure from this secular tradition. His religious orthodoxy led to the imposition of the jizyah, a tax specifically on non-Muslims, the destruction of numerous Hindu temples in the north, and the imposition of restrictions on Hindus.

Repercussions and Reversals

The repercussions of these measures were significant, as they seriously undermined the stability of the empire. However, shortly after Aurangzeb’s death, the jizyah was abolished, and efforts were made to restore amicable relations with Hindu rulers, particularly the Rajputs.

Exploitation Across Religious Lines

Despite these adjustments, a grim reality persisted. Both Hindu and Muslim nobles, zamindars, and chiefs engaged in ruthless oppression and exploitation of the common people, indifferent to their religious affiliations. This widespread oppression further weakened the Mughal Empire, contributing to its eventual decline.

Read Also: The Gupta Empire, India (320-550 CE)

Political Cause

Administrative Struggles

The existing communication means, economic structure, and political framework posed challenges for a stable centralized administration across the country. Aurangzeb’s ambition to unify the nation faced practical difficulties.

Maratha Campaign and Deccan Impact

Aurangzeb’s prolonged and resource-draining campaign against the Marathas in the Deccan hurt the empire economically. His absence from the north for over 25 years weakened administration and diminished the Empire’s prestige.

Maratha Expansion in the 18th Century

Maratha expansion in the north further weakened central authority in the 18th century, contributing to the overall decline of Mughal influence.

Rajput Alliance and Conflict

The Rajput alliance, once a strength, suffered due to Aurangzeb’s attempts to reduce their power. This led to the withdrawal of Rajput loyalty, impacting Mughal authority.

Uprisings at the Nerve Center

Challenges at the heart of Mughal administration around Delhi included uprisings by Satnam, the Jats, and the Sikhs. These rebellions reflected deep dissatisfaction among the peasantry with feudal oppression by various authorities.

Read Also: Bahadur Shah I: The Legacy of a Great Mughal Emperor

Wars of Succession and Civil Wars

  • After Aurangzeb, the Mughal Empire faced internal strife due to wars of succession, leading to civil unrest.
  • Lack of a clear succession rule fueled civil wars among princes, resulting in significant loss of life and property.
  • The Mughal nobility, once a pillar of strength, deteriorated in character and efficiency during the 18th century.
  • Nobles became self-indulgent, living beyond means, and their selfish interests contributed to corruption, administrative decay, and internal conflicts.
  • Heavy demands by nobles on peasants worsened their condition, leading to the formation of roving bands of robbers and undermining law and order.
  • Economic decline, worsened by financial constraints, weakened the Mughal army, affecting discipline, morale, and its ability to curb internal dissent and foreign aggression.
  • The Mughal Empire failed to meet the basic needs of its population, contributing to its downfall.
  • Economic hardships, oppressive nobility, and a weakened army eroded the empire’s ability to maintain cohesion and resist foreign conquerors.

Foreign Invasion

  • Nadir Shah and Ahmad Shah Abdali’s invasions severely impacted the Mughal Empire.
  • These attacks, originating from the empire’s internal weaknesses, depleted wealth, adversely impacted northern trade and industry, and nearly annihilated its military strength.
  • The emergence of the British challenge dealt a final blow to the already crisis-ridden Mughal Empire.
  • With external pressures compounding internal issues, any hope of the empire’s revival was extinguished.


In summary, the Mughal Empire’s decline resulted from Aurangzeb’s aggressive expansion, eroding secular foundations, leading to religious tensions, administrative struggles, economic challenges, and internal conflicts. Foreign invasions by Nadir Shah and Ahmad Shah Abdali, along with the British challenge, accelerated the empire’s downfall, depleting resources. The Mughal Empire succumbed to a complex interplay of internal and external pressures, marking the end of its era.

Read Also: Arrests in Maharashtra Over Aurangzeb Posts

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