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North Indian States in 18th Century

North Indian States in 18th Century

Following were the important North Indian States in 18th Century −


Founding and Consolidation of the Autonomous Kingdom of Avadh

Saadat Khan Burhanul-Mulk: Bold leader appointed as Governor in 1722, faced rebellious zamindars, waged wars, disciplined zamindars, improved financial resources, and carried out a fresh revenue settlement in 1723.

Administration and Inclusivity

Burhan-ul-Mulk’s Rule: Non-discrimination between Hindus and Muslims, inclusion of Hindu commanders and officials, disciplined refractory zamindars irrespective of religion, well-paid and trained troops.

Autonomy and Succession

Hereditary Possession: By 1739, Burhan-ul-Mulk achieved virtual independence, making Avadh a hereditary possession. Succession: Nephew Safdar Jang succeeded him in 1739, appointed wazir in 1748, granted Allahabad province.

Stability and Alliances

Safdar Jang’s Reign: Suppressed rebellious zamindars, formed alliances with Maratha Sardars, ensured a prolonged period of peace in Avadh and Allahabad. Peaceful Period: Safdar Jang’s rule brought stability until his death in 1754.

Read Also: South Indian States in 18th Century

The Rajput States

Rajput Autonomy in the Decline of Mughal Power

Amber and Marwar Influence: During Farrukh Siyar and Muhammad Shah’s reigns, rulers of Amber and Marwar became governors of key Mughal provinces, exploiting weakening central control.

Internal Politics and Decline: Corruption and intrigue marked Agra, Gujarat, Malwa, reflecting the broader Mughal court’s challenges. Tragic instances included the fratricide of Ajit Singh in Marwar.

Raja Sawai Jai Singh’s Legacy

Multifaceted Leadership: Raja Sawai Jai Singh of Amber, an eminent statesman, law-maker, and reformer, distinguished for scientific contributions.

Scientific City of Jaipur: Founded Jaipur on scientific principles, featuring broad streets intersecting at right angles, establishing it as a hub of science and art.

Astronomical Contributions: Jai Singh, a notable astronomer, erected observatories in Delhi, Jaipur, Ujjain, Varanasi, and Mathura, producing accurate observations and influential tables.

Educational Initiatives: Translated Euclid’s “Elements of Geometry” into Sanskrit, promoted trigonometry works, and introduced Napier’s logarithmic concepts.

Social Reforms: Advocated laws to curb extravagant expenditures on weddings, addressing issues like infanticide. Ruled Jaipur for 44 years, leaving a lasting impact from 1699 to 1743.

Jat Uprisings and the Rise of Bharatpur

Peasant Revolts: Jats, agrarian caste around Delhi, Agra, and Mathura, faced repression, leading to revolts in 1669 and 1688, initially driven by grievances of Jat peasants.

Transformation into Predatory Revolt: Originally a peasant uprising, the Jat revolt, led by zamindars, turned predatory, plundering indiscriminately, disrupting the region after Aurangzeb’s death.

Foundation of Bharatpur: Churaman and Badan Singh established the Jat state of Bharatpur, marking the beginning of organized Jat power.

Pinnacle under Suraj Mal: Suraj Mal, a skilled administrator and soldier, elevated Jat power to its zenith (1756-1763), ruling a vast region from the Ganga to Chambal and Agra to Delhi.

Decline and Fragmentation: Post-Suraj Mal’s death in 1763, the Jat state fragmented among petty zamindars, marked by decline and reliance on plunder.

Bangash and Rohelas

Formation of Afghan Principalities in Northern India

Muhammad Khan Bangash in Farrukhabad: Afghan adventurer Muhammad Khan Bangash established control in Farrukhabad, covering the region between Aligarh and Kanpur, during the reigns of Farrukh Siyar and Muhammad Shah.

Ali Muhammad Khan and Rohilkhand: Ali Muhammad Khan seized territory post-Nadir Shah’s invasion, creating Rohilkhand in the Himalayan foothills, from the Ganga in the south to Kumaon hills in the north, with capitals in Aolan (Bareilly) and later Rampur.

Constant Conflicts: The Rohelas engaged in frequent clashes with Avadh, Delhi, and the Jats, shaping the dynamics of Northern Indian politics during this period.

The Sikhs

Sikhism’s Evolution into a Militant Force

Founding and Early Development: Guru Nanak established Sikhism in the late 15th century, gaining popularity among Jat peasantry and lower castes in Punjab.

Militarization under Guru Hargobind: Guru Hargobind (1606-1645) initiated the transformation of Sikhs into a militant community, marking a shift towards armed resistance.

Political and Military Force under Guru Gobind Singh: Guru Gobind Singh (1664-1708), the tenth Guru, elevated Sikhs into a political and military force, engaging in prolonged warfare against Aurangzeb and hill rajas.

Post-Gobind Singh Leadership: Following the passing of Guru Gobind Singh, the leadership transitioned to Banda Singh, also recognized as Banda Bahadur. He led Sikh peasants in a spirited yet ultimately unsuccessful struggle against the Mughal army.

Decline after Banda Bahadur: Banda Bahadur’s capture and execution in 1715 dealt a blow to Sikh territorial ambitions, leading to a decline in their power.


Rise of Ranjit Singh and the Sikh Empire

Leadership and Conquests: Ranjit Singh, chief of the Sukerchakia Misl, emerged as a formidable leader in the late 18th century. Known for his military prowess, administrative efficiency, and diplomatic skills, he captured Lahore in 1799, Amritsar in 1802, and brought Sikh chiefs under his control, establishing the Sikh Kingdom in the Punjab.

Territorial Expansion: Ranjit Singh expanded his kingdom, conquering Kashmir, Peshawar, and Multan. Transforming Sikh chiefs into influential zamindars and jagirdars, he maintained the Mughal land revenue system.

Military Modernization: Ranjit Singh created a powerful, disciplined army with European influences, recruiting diverse troops beyond Sikhs, including Gurkhas, Biharis, Oriyas, Pathans, Dogras, and Punjabi Muslims. He established modern foundries in Lahore for cannon production, boasting one of Asia’s top armies, second only to the English East India Company.


Bengal’s Independence under Murshid Quli Khan and Alivardi Khan

Exceptional Leadership: Murshid Quli Khan and Alivardi Khan seized control of Bengal, capitalizing on central authority’s decline. Murshid Quli Khan, appointed Governor in 1717, had been the de facto ruler since 1700.

Read Also: Significance of Plassey

Effective Governance: Murshid Quli Khan achieved virtual independence, maintaining peace by addressing internal and external threats, while still paying tribute to the Emperor.

Minor Uprisings: Murshid Quli Khan faced uprisings, including those led by Sitaram Ray, Udai Narayan, Ghulam Muhammad, Shujat Khan, and Najat Khan, but managed to quell them.

Succession and Intrigues: Murshid Quli Khan’s son-in-law, Shuja-ud-din, ruled until 1739. Alivardi Khan then deposed and killed Shuja-ud-din’s son, Sarfaraz Khan, becoming the Nawab in 1739.

Read Also: Regional powers in 18th Century

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