Mogul Conquest of India (1526-1707)

Gale Encyclopedia of World History: War. Volume 1. Detroit: Gale, 2008.

Major Figures


Zahir-ud-din Muhammad Babur (1483-1530) was the first Mogul ruler in India. He was originally a prince of the Timurid state of Ferghana in the area known as Transoxiana (modern day Uzbekistan and Tajikistan). He was descended from the two great Central Asian conquerors: Timur and, more distantly, Genghis Khan. Babur was both a talented soldier and an accomplished poet. His vividly written memoir, called the Tuzuk-i-Baburi or Book of Babur, gives a first-hand account of his conquest of India in prose and poetry.

Babur took the throne of Timur’s fabled capital of Samarqand at the age of twelve, but soon lost his kingdom to yet another nomadic people from the steppes, the Uzbek tribes of Turkistan. In 1501, he deserted Samarqand for Tashkent, the first step on his flight toward Afghanistan, where he conquered a new state for himself, centered in Kabul. He re-captured Samarqand from the Uzbeks in 1511, but held it for less than a year. Unable to regain the throne of Transoxiana, he turned his attention south, to the fertile plains of northern India.

The riches of Hindustan were legendary among the Islamic states of Central Asia. The countryside was lush and the reputation of Indian manufactured goods was high. Drawn by rich crops, luxury fabrics, precious stones, and fine steel, Islamic armies had invaded northern India for generations, beginning with Muhammad of Ghazni, who raided India more than twenty times between 1000 and 1027, and ending with Timur’s devastating attack on the Delhi sultanate in 1398. Some invaders had only pillaged; others had established flourishing Muslim states.

In January, 1519, Babur, driven by the relative poverty of Kabul, followed his great-grandfather Timur’s example and led his first raid into the area now known as the Northwest Frontier province of Pakistan. The raid was successful. Babur reported in his memoirs “we took four hundred thousand shahrukhis [a gold coin weighing 4.72 grams] worth of cash and goods, distributed it to the army according to the number of liege men and returned to Kabul.” Between 1519 and 1524, Babur led four such forays into Hindustan.

In 1524, the nature of Babur’s raiding changed. The Lodi sultanate in Delhi had grown weak under the rule of Sultan Ibrahim. Ibrahim’s rule was threatened by resistance in the Deccan Plateau region (in south central India), the formation of independent Hindu kingdoms, and revolts by his provincial governors. The governors of the Punjab and Sind invited Babur to help them overthrow the Sultan and re-establish their equality and independence within the sultanate. Rana Sanga, the leader of the powerful Rajput state of Mewar (now Udaipur in modern India), also allied himself with Babur against the Sultan.

Inviting Babur to attack the sultanate proved to be a mistake. Babur was only too willing to bring his armies into northern India. In his memoir, the first Mogul emperor wrote, “From the year 910 [1504-05 on the Western calendar] when Kabul was conquered, until this date, I craved Hindustan. Sometimes because my begs [high-ranking officers] had poor opinions, and sometimes because my brothers lacked cooperation, the Hindustan campaign had not been possible and the realm had not been conquered. Finally all such impediments had been removed.”

Babur’s first victory came in 1524, when he defended Lahore against Ibrahim’s army. In 1525, Babur turned on his allies, captured Lahore, and annexed the Punjab. He went on to defeat Sultan Ibrahim Lodi at the battle of Panipat on April 20, 1526, and established himself as the ruler of Delhi. With the Lodi capital under his control, he swept on to capture the other great cities of the north: Gwalior, Kanauj and Jaunpur.

Foundation of the Mogul Empire

The battle at Panipat is generally accepted as the official beginning of the Mogul empire, but Babur still faced opposition. Ibrahim’s brother Mahmud escaped from the defeat at Panipat to raise an army in Bengal, and a coalition of Rajput chieftains and Muslim nobles gathered around Rana Sanga of Mewar, the principal chieftain of Rajputana.

Rana Sanga was a more serious opponent than Ibrahim. Sanga’s much larger force had Babur’s army surrounded at Khauna, a village less than forty miles west of Agra, but the Rajput leader waited too long. By the time the one-eyed, one-armed veteran was ready to attack, his confederacy had been undermined by caste rivalries and some of his allies had deserted him. On March 16, 1527, Babur broke through Sanga’s line with a combination of artillery and mounted horsemen. Sanga was forced off the field. He was poisoned shortly after his defeat; Rajput’s hopes for the restoration of Hindu power in North India died with him.

Babur then led his army east into Uttar Pradesh against Mahmud Lodi’s Bengali and Afghan forces. With their defeat on May 6, 1529, the sultanate was dead and Babur was the master of northern India.

Babur was never comfortable in India. “Hindustan is a place of little charm,” he complained. “There is no beauty in its people, no graceful social intercourse, no poetic talent or understanding, no etiquette, nobility, or manliness. The arts and crafts have no harmony or symmetry. There are no good horses, meat, grapes, melons, or other fruit. There is no ice, cold water, good food, or bread in the markets. There are no baths or madrasas [Islamic schools]. There are no candles, torches or candlesticks.” In short, he concluded, “The one nice aspect of Hindustan is that it is a large country with lots of gold and money.” He looked forward to returning to the mountains of Kabul once he had consolidated his control over his vast new empire.

Babur never returned to the mountains that he loved. He died on Agra on December 26, 1530, at the age of forty-seven after the sudden onset of an illness (exactly what type is unknown). According to chroniclers, he had called on Allah to take his life in exchange for that of his son, Humayan, who was seriously ill. He left Humayan a territory that stretched from the Oxus River to the border of Bengal and from the Himalayas to Gwalior.

Sultan Ibrahim Lodi

Sultan Ibrahim Lodi (?-1526) was the last ruler of the Lodi Sultanate of Delhi. His defeat by Babur at the battle of Panipat marked the end of the Delhi Sultanate and the beginning of the Mogul empire in India.

The Lodi dynasty was the last of a succession of five Turkish and Afghan dynasties collectively known as the Delhi Sultanate, founded when the Ghurid general Qutb-ud-din Aibak declared himself sultan in 1206. The first Lodi sultan, Buhlul Lodi, was a member of an Afghan family that had received control of the Sirhind district of the Punjab in return for their services in defending the sultanate’s northwest frontiers. When the last Sayyid sultan, Alam Shah, retired to the provincial city of Baduan in 1448, the nobles of Delhi invited Buhlul Lodi to defend the city against an attack by the ruler of Malwa. In 1451, unopposed by Alam Shah, Buhlul took the throne and became the first Afghan ruler of India. For the nearly forty years of his reign, Buhlul concentrated on re-establishing control over the independent Hindu and Muslim kingdoms that had broken away from the sultanate’s control during the final years of the Sayyid dynasty. After Buhlul’s death in 1489, his son, Sikander, continued his father’s policy of re-building and consolidating the sultanate’s power.

The Afghan nobles who followed Buhlul Lodi to Delhi were both the main prop of the Lodi dynasty and its most dangerous challenge. The first two Lodi sultans managed the inevitable disputes with the Afghan nobles by giving them large land grants, modifying the traditional autocracy of the sultanate to fit with Afghan ideas of independence, and appealing to Afghan loyalty.

Sultan Sikander died in 1517 and was succeeded by Ibrahim Lodi. Unlike his predecessors, Ibrahim asserted the absolute power of the sultan without regard to tribal feelings. Opposition to Ibrahim grew until it overwhelmed tribal rivalries. The problems with Afghan nobles that had simmered throughout the Lodi dynasty escalated into civil war. Ibrahim faced rebellion first in Bihar and then Lahore.

In 1523, Daulat Khan Lodi, the sultan’s uncle and governor of the Punjab, learned that Ibrahim intended to remove him from office. Lacking the forces to defend himself, Daulat Khan asked Babur, the Turkish ruler of Kabul, to defend him against his nephew in exchange for recognizing Babur as his sovereign. In 1524, Babur successfully defended the Punjab capital of Lahore against Ibrahim’s army. Over the course of the following year, he turned on his allies, captured Lahore, and annexed the Punjab to his own kingdom.

In 1526, with the Punjab thoroughly under his control and his northwestern borders secure, Babur directed his attention to Ibrahim Lodi and Delhi. He wrote in his memoirs, “[W]e placed our feet in the stirrup of resolve, grabbed the reins of trust in God, and directed ourselves against Sultan Ibrahim, son of Sultan Sikander son of Buhlul Lodi the Afghan, who controlled the city of Delhi and the realm of Hindustan at the time.” Babur fought Sultan Ibrahim at Panipat, some miles northwest of Delhi, on April 20, 1526. The forces were unequally matched. Babur reported that Ibrahim had a standing army of 100,000 and nearly 1,000 elephants. Babur himself fielded only 12,000 men, including merchants and servants, but those 12,000 included experienced armed horsemen backed by Central Asian artillery. At day’s end, the sultan and 15,000 of his men were dead. Babur went on to take the twin Lodi capitals of Delhi and Agra and declared himself the emperor of Muslim India.


Humayan (1508-56), the second Mogul emperor, almost lost the north Indian empire that his father, Babur, had conquered.

Humayan was already an experienced commander when he inherited the Mogul empire in 1530 at the age of twenty-three. He had fought with his father against the Lodi dynasty and had led the campaign against Muhhamed Lodi, a member of the deposed dynasty who had captured Jaunpur. Despite his experience, Humayan was not as capable as is father. By all accounts, he was more interested in opium and astronomy than power.

Humayan’s claim to the throne was immediately threatened. Jealous relatives, including his three younger brothers, contested his succession. The most concentrated of these attacks on his position came from his brother Kamran, who was the governor of Kabul; Humayan transferred the Punjab to Kamran in an unsuccessful effort to win his support. To the west, Bahadur Shah, the ruler of Gujarat and Malwa, which had been independent of Delhi for more than a century, provided shelter to Muhhamed Zaman Mirza, who had plotted against Humayan. To the east, his authority was challenged by the Afghan chieftains, who had never become reconciled to their loss of power after the fall of the Lodi dynasty, led by Sher Khan Sur.

Humayan led a series of successful campaigns against Bahadur Shah’s territories. In 1535, he defeated the Gujarati ruler at Mandsaur. Bahadur Shah fled first to the capital of Malwa and then into Gujarat, where Humayan took Champaner, one of the strongest fortresses in Gujarat, after a four-month-long siege. The rising power of Sher Khan forced Humayan to abandon his gains in Gujarat to move against Sher Khan in Bihar.

Sher Khan was the son of a minor Afghan jagadir (landholder) in Bihar. Sultan Buhlul Lodi had invited his grandfather to India. When Babur invaded northern India, Sher Khan left the service of the governor of Bihar to join the Mogul army. When he heard rumors that Babur had threatened to arrest him because he looked ambitious and capable, he returned to his estates and entered the service of the Sultan of Bihar. Sher Khan took advantage of the disturbed conditions that followed Babur’s death to assert his supremacy in Bihar. After 1536, he attempted to claim Bengal as well. Humayan managed to oust him from Bengal’s capital in 1539.

Fraternal Squabbles and the Might of Sher Khan

The news that his brother, Hindal, had declared himself emperor in Agra drove Humayan to withdraw from Bengal during the rainy season. Hindal’s rebellion was quelled by Kamran, who led troops against him from Kabul. Humayan’s forces were caught by the monsoon on the way to Agra. He lost part of his army to extreme weather before being defeated by Sher Khan at Chausa. The two armies met for a final time at Kanauj in April, 1540. According to Mirza Haider, author of The Tarikh-i-Rashidi and a minor member of the Mogul dynasty, the remains of Humayan’s army were so demoralized that they fled in panic as soon as Sher Khan’s forces advanced.

Humayan fled to Rajputana and Sind, looking for aid against the Afghans. When he received no help there, the deposed emperor attempted to take Qandahar, which was ruled by his brother, Askari. Finally he took refuge with Shah Tahmasp of Persia. In 1544, at the head of a Persian force, Humayan defeated Askari at Qandahar. He turned the city over to the Persians as payment for their support. He went on to take Babur’s old kingdom of Kabul from Kamran. He blinded Kamran and exiled both brothers to Mecca. Humayan now had a base from which to recover his lost empire.

Sher Khan had proclaimed himself the ruler of north India in 1539 after the battle of Chausa, taking the title of Sher Shah Adil. After defeating Humayan at Kanauj, he quickly conquered Malwa, Rajputana, and Sind. To guard against Mogul invasion, he built a line of forts in the northwest Punjab. Sher Shah ruled for only six years, but in that time established the administrative structure for an imperial state that lasted under the Moguls for almost two hundred years. He reformed the revenue system, built a network of roads across northern India, and equipped them with caravanserais (desert inns for traveling caravans) and wells for travelers.

Sher Shah was succeeded by his son, Islam Shah, in 1545. Islam Shah was a weak ruler and his disregard of the Afghan chieftains weakened the position of the Sur dynasty.

The succession struggles that followed Islam Shah’s death in 1554 gave Humayan the opportunity for which he had been waiting. In 1555, Humayan led a Persian army into India and recaptured the Punjab, Agra, and Delhi.

Before he had a chance to consolidate his gains, Humayan fell to his death on the steps of his private observatory in Delhi in January 1556, leaving his newly regained empire to his thirteen-year-old son, Akbar.


Akbar (1542-1606), known to his European contemporaries as “The Great Mogul,” was the true architect of the Mogul Empire. The administrative systems and policies that he established were the basis of his dynasty and its successors for almost two hundred years.

Akbar was born in Sind on October 15, 1542, while his father, Humayan, was fleeing Sher Khan Sur. Akbar was raised at the fortress of Qandahar under the care of Bairam Khan, who was a trusted friend of his father. Raised in exile in Afghanistan, Akbar learned to hunt, ride, and fight, but did not learn to read or write, an anomaly in a dynasty noted for its devotion to the literary arts. Scholars have speculated that Akbar was dyslexic.

Early Years of Akbar’s Reign

When Akbar inherited the throne in 1556 at the age of thirteen, the Mogul Empire was not much more than a disputed title and a foothold in northern India. Humayan had regained control of the Punjab, Delhi, and Agra less than a year before, but had not subdued members of the Sur family and their supporters. When the leaders of the Sur family recaptured Delhi and Agra, it seemed certain that Akbar’s rule, and his life, would be short.

For the first four years of Akbar’s reign, the real ruler of the empire was Bairam Khan, who served as his regent. Bairam Khan defeated the Sur armies at the second battle of Panipat on November 5, 1556, and recaptured Delhi and Agra. He then began to assert Mogul control over the rest of Hindustan. Having reduced the great fortress of Gwalior and annexed the province of Jaunpur, he was planning the conquest of Malwa when Akbar took the power into his own hands in 1560 at the age of 17. After a brief resistance, Bairam Khan left on a pilgrimage to Mecca. He never made it: he was killed by a band of Pathans in Gujarat in 1561.

Over the course of almost fifty years, Akbar expanded his empire to include all of northern India, largely at the expense of other Muslim dynasties in India, using a combination of warfare and statecraft. He annexed Malwa in 1560, Gondwana in 1564, and Mewar in 1567. He incorporated the powerful Muslim state of Gujarat into the empire in 1573, and he conquered the remaining Afghan strongholds in Bihar and Bengal in 1576.

Ruling Rajput

Akbar’s treatment of the Rajput states is perhaps the best example of his ability to combine force with diplomacy. The Rajput chiefs had been the leaders of Hindu opposition to Muslim rule in India. Every ruler at Delhi had been constantly at war with them. Akbar recognized at the beginning of his reign that alliance with the Rajputs would be necessary if he was to successfully rule his empire. He took his first step toward such alliance in 1562 when he married the daughter of Raja Bharmal of Amber (now Jaipur) and recognized the Raja, his son, and grandson as members of the Mogul nobility.

Not every Rajput ruler was willing to become a vassal of the Moguls, however. Udai Singh, the Rana of Mewar and descendant of Rana Sanga, whom Babur had defeated at Khanauj in 1527, refused to recognize Akbar’s authority. Akbar led his troops against the Rana’s fort at Chitor in October 1567. Udai Singh fled to the Aravali hills before the siege began. When the city fell in February, 1568, Akbar ordered the massacre of its 30,000 defenders. Mewar’s royal regalia were dragged back to Agra as symbols of the Mogul victory.

Further Rajput resistance was short-lived. Ranthambhor surrendered in March, 1569, and Kalinjar in August. By November, 1570, most of the Rajput states had sworn allegiance to Akbar; in many cases the allegiance was sealed by the voluntary marriage of Rajput daughters to members of the royal family. Only one Rajput ruler refused to submit. Udai Singh continued to hide in the Aravali hills until his death in 1572. He was succeeded by his son, Pratap Singh. Akbar’s repeated attempts to capture Pratap Singh failed. The Rana (the title of the kings of Rajput were called) was still at large when he died in 1597. His son continued to resist Mogul dominance until 1614.

After the fall of Bengal and Bihar in 1576, Akbar did not leave his capital on a military expedition again until 1581, when his brother, Mirza Hakim, invaded the Punjab from his kingdom in Kabul. Akbar drove Mirza Hakim back to Kabul, but left him in control of the area until Mirza Hakim’s death in 1585.

Expanding the Empire

Mirza Hakim’s attack was the beginning of a long period of challenges from the outskirts of the empire. Some of the border tribes had risen against the Moguls. More importantly the Uzbeks, who had driven Babur out of Samarqand, had organized under the leadership of Abdullah Khan and threatened to invade the empire’s northwest frontier. Akbar remained in the north until Abdullah Khan’s death in 1598 removed the Uzbek threat. Using Lahore as a temporary capital, he extended his empire to the north, taking Orissa in 1592, Sind in 1593, Baluchistan in 1594, and Qandahar in 1595.

With most of northwest India firmly under his control, Akbar turned his attention to the independent Muslim kingdoms in the Deccan Plateau region of south central India. The sultanates of Ahmadnagar, Bidar, Bijapur, and Golconda had been founded in the fifteenth century following the disintegration of the Bahmani Sultanate. Beginning in 1591, Akbar had sent envoys to the sultanates four times, asking their rulers to recognize his suzerainty (control). They refused each time. In 1599, Akbar led troops into the Deccan and annexed the greater part of Ahmadnagar, though the province was never fully subjugated. The other sultanates retained their independence until they were conquered by Akbar’s great grandson, Aurangzeb, in 1686 and 1687.

Akbar returned to Agra in May 1601. At the age of 59, his career of conquest was over. His last years were troubled by hostile relations with his only surviving son, Prince Salim, who declared himself emperor in Allahabad in 1601 while his father was still engaged in the Deccan.

Akbar fell ill in August 1605. Unable to diagnose his illness, the doctors suspected that he was being poisoned, possibly with diamond dust. He died on January 7, 1606, after almost fifty years on the throne. He was succeeded by Prince Salim, who reigned under the Persian name Jahangir (World Seizer) from 1605 to 1627. Jahangir was succeeded by Shah Jahan, who is best known for the construction of the Taj Mahal as a memorial to his wife.

Pratap Singh

Pratap Singh (1545-97), the fifty-second Rana (ruler) of Mewar, was the only major Rajput chieftain who refused alliance with the Mogul empire. His story, represented as a proto-nationalist fight against foreign invaders, was a source of inspiration for the nationalist movement in the twentieth century.

The Rajput state of Mewar, known today as Udaipur, had a long history of resisting Muslim rule in India. Rana Sanga, who came to the throne in 1509, battled successfully against the Muslim rulers of Gujarat and Malwa as well as the Lodi Sultanate. He led a confederacy of Rajput and Afghan nobility that seriously challenged Mogul ruler Babur’s conquest of northern India until his defeat at Khanauj in 1527.

Rana Sanga’s son, Udai Singh, not only refused to give a daughter in marriage to the Mogul dynasty and become a vassal of the Mogul empire, he also gave refuge to Baz Bahadur, the fugitive sultan of Malwa. In retaliation, Mogul ruler Akbar marched on the Mewar fortress of Chitor in October 1567. Udai Singh fled to the Aravali Hills, leaving Chitor’s defense in the hands of the commander of the garrison. Chitor stands on a high rock in the middle of a flat plain and was considered to be impregnable; however, the fortress fell in February 1568. Akbar ordered the massacre of 30,000 of its defenders, mostly non-combatants, and dragged Mewar’s royal regalia back to Delhi as a symbol of victory. The fall of Chitor signaled the end of Rajput resistance. By 1570, Udai Singh was the only Rajput king who had not sworn alliance with the Mogul state.

Udai Singh built a new capital in the Girwar and made no effort to retake Mewar. The conflict with the Moguls was renewed after his death in 1572 by his son, Pratap Singh. (Pratap Singh’s younger brother, Jagmal, joined Akbar’s court after a failed bid for the throne of Mewar.)

Defeat at Haldighati

Between 1572 and 1573, Akbar sent four missions to Pratap Singh to convince him to become a Mogul vassal. When diplomacy failed, Akbar sent an army against Mewar for a second time. Akbar’s forces, led by the Rajput general Raja Man Singh of Amber, defeated the Rana and his allies at Haldighati Pass in 1576. Pratap Singh managed to escape the battlefield because the head of the Jhala clan, who had served the Ranas of Mewar for several generations, took the Rana’s place under the royal insignia.

Pratap Singh learned from his failures at Haldighati. He abandoned direct battle with his enemy in favor of the guerrilla tactics that were better suited to both the landscape and his limited resources.

Reclaming Lost Territories

Akbar sent two more expeditions against the recalcitrant Rana in 1580 and 1584. Although both expeditions captured forts in Mewar, they failed at their primary objective. Both times Pratap Singh successfully evaded capture by retreating to the mountains. From 1585 on, preoccupation with the Punjab, unrest on the northwest frontier, and the threat of an Uzbek invasion prevented the Mogul emperor from devoting resources to an active campaign against an enemy who harassed and exhausted his forces with guerrilla tactics. Before his death from a hunting accident in 1597, the Rana had recovered all his territories except Chitor and Mandalgarh and founded a new capital at Chavand.

In 1600, Akbar sent troops led by Prince Salim (later the emperor Jahangir) and Raja Man Singh against Pratap’s successor, Amar Singh. Salim defeated Amar Singh in early confrontations, but the Mogul forces once again failed to consolidate their victory into control over Mewar due to the Prince’s subsequent revolt against his father. Amar continued the fight against the Moguls until 1614, when the Mogul army changed its tactics and began to take women and children prisoner. He surrendered to Jahangir and became a Mogul feudatory (one who holds land by feudal fee).

Rama Raya

Rama Raya (1542-1565) ruled the Hindu empire of Vijayanagar in the name of the emperor Sadashiva from 1543 to 1564. His defeat at the hands of the combined forces of the Deccani sultanates (sultanates located in the Deccan Plateau region of south central India) at the battle of Talikota ended the 200-year-old empire and opened the way for the Mogul conquest of the Deccan under Aurangzeb.

Vijayanagar, the “City of Victory,” was the capital of a powerful Hindu kingdom of the same name that was founded in 1336. Vijayanagar’s military strength closed the southern half of the Indian peninsula to Muslim control and dominated the politics of the Deccan for almost two centuries over the reign of three ruling dynasties. The empire reached its greatest extent during the reign of the poet-king Krishnadevaraya, who ruled from 1509 to 1529.

The vicious succession struggles that followed Krishnadevaraya’s death convulsed Vijayanagar from 1530 to 1542. Not only the throne itself, but other powerful court positions changed hands over and over as a result of successive murders and military coups.

The power struggles came to a head in 1543. The young prince Venkata I had succeeded to his father’s throne. His regent and maternal uncle, Salakaraju China Tirumala, began to plot to overthrow his nephew and make himself king. At the same time, Krishnadevaraya’s son-in-law, Rama Raya, who had tried to seize the throne outright or as regent several times over the prior twelve years, made another bid for the throne in the name of Sadashiva, a young member of the ruling dynasty. He liberated the imprisoned Sadashiva, proclaimed him emperor, and sent an appeal to Ibrahim Adil Shah, the sultan of Bijapur, for help in establishing the young ruler on the throne.

Tirumala Takes the Throne

In response, Adil Shah invaded Vijayanagar and advanced on the capital. Tirumala took advantage of the crisis to seize the throne. He defeated Adil Shah before the Muslim ruler reached Vijayanagar City and put the Muslim army to flight. He then attempted to consolidate his position by strangling his deposed nephew and massacring all the members of the royal family that he could lay hands on. With growing paranoia, he began to attack friend and foe alike.

Rama Raya gathered his forces to take action against Tirumala in the name of Sadashiva, proclaiming him to be Krishnadevaraya’s lawful heir. Tirumala fought bitterly to keep the throne. He was finally defeated and put to death by Rama Raya at the battle of the Tungabhadra.

Regent and More

Sadashiva took the throne in the middle of 1543. His succession was uncontested; Tirumala had destroyed all the other potential heirs. Until 1552, Rama Raya ruled the empire as regent. Not content with the power alone, he assumed royal titles as if he were the emperor. When Sadashiva came of age in 1552, he did not challenge Rama Raya but prudently recognized him as co-regent.

Under Rama Raya’s rule, the relationship between Vijayanagar and the Muslim states of the Deccan began to change. The Hindu empire had been in continuous conflict with the Bahmani sultanate and its successors. Unlike his predecessors, Rama Raya involved himself in the conflicts between the five sultanates. More than once, he was invited by one of the sultanates to intervene in their affairs. His repeated armed assistance in deciding quarrels between the two dominant sultanates, Bijapur and Ahmadnagar, kept the balance of power between the sultanates stable. At the same time, Vijayanagar’s power grew to such an extent that it seemed to threaten the safety of the Muslim kingdoms.

Although each of them had at one time been an ally of the Hindu ruler against the others, the Muslim rulers became alarmed at the threat posed by such a wealthy and powerful neighbor. They formed an alliance against Vijayanagar. The allied armies of the Deccan met and defeated the forces of Vijayanagar at the battle of Talikota, also known as the battle of Rakshasi-Tengadi, on January 23, 1565. Vijayanagar’s army was practically annihilated. Rama Raya was captured on the battlefield and beheaded. The great city of Vijayanagar was plundered and destroyed. Although the last dynasty of Vijayanagar continued to rule smaller kingdoms in southern India for nearly a century, the “City of Victory” was no longer the dominant power in the Deccan.


The Mogul empire reached its greatest extent under Aurangzeb (1618-1707), who ruled from 1658 to 1707. His reign was marked by increasing religious intolerance and subsequent rebellions.

Aurangzeb gained the throne in July 1658 after leading a fratricidal civil war against his father, Shah Jahan, and the heir to the throne, his older brother, Dara Shikoh. Aurangzeb joined forces with his youngest brother, Murad, who was the governor of Gujarat. Together, they defeated Dara at Samugarh, several miles outside of Agra, on May 29. Dara fled to Lahore. Besieged by his sons, Shah Jahan surrendered on June 8 and was imprisoned by them.

Aurangzeb then moved against his brothers. He arrested Murad immediately after their father’s surrender; three years later, Murad was decapitated on his brother’s order. He drove a fourth brother, Shuja, the governor of Bengal, out of India and across the border into Burma. After Dara’s final defeat, Aurangzeb delivered a box containing his brother’s head to their father. With Shah Jahan still his captive, Aurangzeb had disposed of all possible rivals to the throne.

End of Religious Tolerance

As soon as he was securely on the throne, Aurangzeb abandoned the policy of religious tolerance for Hindus that had been an element of Islamic Mogul rule from the time of Babur. He passed laws forbidding astrologers and alcohol and prohibited music at his court. More important from the standpoint of public opinion, he doubled the taxes on Hindu merchants and reduced the authority of his Hindu officers. Beginning in 1668, he ordered the destruction of Hindu temples and attempted to enforce all the penalties on Hindus called for under Shari’a law (law based on the Koran, the holy text of Islam), including the head tax on individual dhimmi (unbelievers). He even applied the dhimmi tax to Hindus serving in the Mogul army.

Religious Conflicts

Aurangzeb’s reign was marked by widespread revolt, brought about by a combination of religious reaction and significant increases in revenue demands. The destruction of a popular temple in 1669 triggered a major rebellion among Jat farmers in the Doab. Led by a zamindar (landholder) named Gokula, peasants and minor landholders cooperated to throw out the Mogul tax collectors. Three years later, the Satnamis, a sect of Hindu peasants that revered the poet-saint Kabir, marched on Delhi, where they were massacred by Mogul artillery.

Aurangzeb inherited problems with the Sikhs, another religious group, who had supported Dara Sikoh’s claim to the throne. Since the founding of the Sikh faith by Guru Nanak in the early sixteenth century, the community had flourished in the Punjab, drawing converts from both Hindu and Muslim peasant populations in the area. Mogul oppression and persecution converted the Sikhs from a peaceful sect into a militant order prepared to defend their faith with their lives.

For the first years of his reign, Aurangzeb kept the Sikh menace at bay by holding one of the Guru’s sons hostage in Delhi. When the ninth Guru came to power, he was arrested and beheaded for refusing to convert to Islam. Guru Gobind Rai, the tenth and last Guru, vowed to avenge his father’s death and to fight against Mogul tyranny. Gobind was said to have as many as twenty thousand supporters. Although the Mogul armies outnumbered the Sikhs, they were unable to subdue the militant sect.

An equally fierce opponent to Mogul rule emerged in Maharastra under the leadership of Shivaji Bhonsle. The Hindu mountaineers of the Maratha coastlands, who had served in both the armies and administrations of the Deccani sultanates (sultanates located in the Deccan Plateau region of south central India), were discontented with the new imperial regime. Led by Shivaji, the Marathas captured a chain of hill fortresses from which they raided both the Mogul territories in the Deccan and the sultanate of Bijapur. Malcontents from all over the Deccan, Hindu and Muslim alike, joined Shivaji’s “mountain rats.”They soon controlled a substantial portion of Maharastra.

In 1664, Shivaji sacked the port of Surat. Enraged, Aurangzeb sent a large army against the Maratha. Besieged in one of his mountain fortresses, Shivaji surrendered in 1665, giving up twenty-three of his twenty-five fortresses in exchange for a position in the imperial Mogul service. Once at Aurangzeb’s court, Shivaji complained loudly that he had not been treated with sufficient respect and was arrested. He escaped in a laundry basket and made his way back to the Deccan, where he was greeted as a returning monarch. By 1670, he had recaptured most of his mountain fortresses. In 1674, he had himself crowned Chatrapati (Lord of the Universe). Shivaji ruled unmolested until his death in 1680.

The year Shivaji died, the Rajputs of Jodhpur and Mewar rebelled against Aurangzeb’s rule after the emperor destroyed their temples and interfered with the royal succession in their states. Aurangzeb sent his son, Akbar, at the head of a large force to subdue the Rajput rebellion; Akbar decided instead to join forces with the rebels and declared himself emperor. Abandoned by his allies on the eve of battle, Akbar fled to the Deccan with a few of his followers and sought support from Shivaji’s eldest son, Sambhaji.

Aurangzeb marched south to subdue the Deccan and capture the rebel prince. In March 1682, he established camp at Aurangabad, the Deccan capital he had built as a young prince, and began a series of campaigns against the Deccani sultanates and the Maratha guerrillas. The prince escaped his grasp. When Akbar saw Bijapur fall under his father’s attack in 1686, he fled to Persia, where he lived in exile until his death.

In 1687, Golconda, the last of the Deccani sultanates, surrendered and was absorbed into the Mogul empire. Only the Marathas remained to oppose Aurangzeb’s expansion south. At first, Sambhaji successfully used the same guerrilla tactics as his father to harass and hide from Aurangzeb’s far superior forces. In 1689, Sambhaji was captured and tortured to death. His younger brother Raja Ram took the title of Chatrapati and continued the cause of Maratha independence until his own death in 1700. His widow, Tara Bai, continued the struggle.

When Aurangzeb died in 1707, his empire reached from Kashmir to Hyderabad, from Kabul to Assam, but it was ready to crumble, threatened by fraternal warfare, rebellious subjects, and the new European enclaves on the coast.

Major Battles


The defeat of Sultan Ibrahim Lodi by Babur at the battle of Panipat on April 20, 1526, is often described as the beginning of the Mogul empire in India.

The Lodi sultanate in Delhi had grown weak under the rule of Sultan Ibrahim Lodi. In 1524, the governors who ruled the Punjab and Sind invited Babur to help defend them against the Sultan. Rana (ruler) Sanga, the leader of the powerful Rajput state of Mewar, also allied himself with Babur against the Sultan, agreeing to attack Delhi from the south and west while Babur attacked from the north.

Babur proved to be more dangerous to the Punjab and Sind than Sultan Ibrahim had been. In 1525, he turned on his allies, captured Lahore, and annexed the Punjab. With the northwest secured, he turned his attention to Sultan Ibrahim and Delhi.

The two armies met at Panipat on April 20, 1526. Their numbers were unequal. According to Babur’s memoirs, theTuzuk-i-Baburi or Book of Babur, Ibrahim fielded 100,00 men and 1,000 elephants. Babur had only 12,000 men, including non-combatants, but those 12,000 included experienced horsemen backed by good field artillery.

Babur placed his forces so that the town of Panipat sheltered his extreme right while his left was protected by a ditch and a barricade of felled trees. His center was strengthened by a line of about 700 carts tied together with rawhide ropes. Between every two carts were six to seven shields to protect his matchlock men and artillery. Space was left at regular intervals, the “distance of an arrow shot,” wide enough for 100 to 150 cavalrymen to advance.

For eight days, the armies stood face to face. Small parties of Babur’s men went on raiding parties as far as the enemy camp, but Ibrahim did not attack. On April 20, Babur sent out several thousand men on an abortive night raid. The next morning at dawn, the Afghan forces moved into battle array. Babur arranged his troops in the traditional formation used by Turco-Mongolian forces, with his matchlock men and artillery along the front of the entire line, protected by the palisade of carts and breastworks, his infantry in front of the carts, and two flying columns at the extreme right and left of the line.

The Afghan army came straight on at a rapid march, then halted as they neared Babur’s defenses, causing confusion in their own rear lines. Babur sent his flying columns to wheel around the Afghans and attack from the rear while his right and left wings charged straight on. After the artillery and matchlocks began to fire from the center, Ibrahim’s center gave way. His right and left flanks were so hemmed in that they could neither advance nor retreat.

By noon, Sultan Ibrahim and 15,000 of his men were dead and the road was open to Delhi and Agra. Akbar lost no time in consolidating his victory. Prince Humayan was dispatched with a force to occupy Agra. Babur followed with the main body of the army and reached Delhi three days later, where he proclaimed himself emperor.


The defeat of Rama Raya at the battle of Talikota, also known as the battle of Rakshasi-Tangedi, on January 23, 1565, meant the effective end of the powerful Hindu empire of Vijayanagar, which had stood as a bulwark against Muslim expansion to the south for two hundred years.

Under Rama Raya’s leadership, Vijayanagar had become increasingly involved in the internecine quarrels of the Deccani sultanates (sultanates located in the Deccan Plateau of south central India). Vijayanagar’s armed intervention in their disputes over successions and boundaries kept the balance of power between the Muslim states stable, ensuring that none of them could grow powerful enough to threaten their Hindu neighbor. Eventually, the leaders of the Deccani sultanates came to resent the growing influence of Vijayanagar. In 1564, the sultans of Ahmednagar, Bidar, Bijapur, and Golconda managed to put aside their differences for the first time and allied themselves against the growing threat of Vijayanagar.

The allied armies of the Deccani sultanates gathered on December 26, 1564, at the town of Talikota in Bijapur, about twenty-two miles north of the Krishna River, which served as a border between the sultanates and Vijayanagar. (The battle itself took place about twenty-five miles south of Talikota and sixty-two miles northwest of the Hindu capital.) Accounts from the Portuguese settlements at Goa estimated the size of the allied army to be 50,000 horse soldiers and 3,000 foot soldiers, led by generals from Ahmadnagar, Bijapur, and Golconda.

Rama Raya lost no time in making preparations to meet the united forces of the sultanate. Estimates of the size of the Hindu army differ from chronicle to chronicle, ranging from 70,000 to 100,000 horse soldiers and 90,000 to 600,000 infantry. Despite his age, variously reported as 70, 80, and 96, Rama Raya had himself carried to the battlefield in a litter to command Vijayanagar’s forces in person, aided by his two younger brothers.

After an initial exchange of arrows between the vanguards of the two armies, both forces moved into battle array. Rama Raya put his brothers, Tirumala and Venkatadri, in charge of his right and left wings, while he himself commanded the center. Two thousand armed elephants and a thousand pieces of ordnance were placed at intervals along his line. Each of the three Muslim divisions was led by a general from a different sultanate. Ikhas Khan, an officer of Ahmadnagar, was posted with a force of mounted archers in front of the center division. Gun carriages holding 600 pieces of ordnance of different calibers were fastened together with strong chains and lined in three ranks behind the archers. The sultanates’ elephants were placed at intervals in the main line of battle.

The losses on both sides were heavy, but the battle was short. The left wing of the Hindu army, commanded by Venkatadri, was the first to attack, driving back its Muslim counterpart under the leadership of Adi Adil Shah of Bijapur. After Venkatardri opened the attack, the action became general. Muslim forces retreated under the force of Vijayanagar’s attack and then returned to battle. When several detachments of the Hindu army were sent against the Muslim center line, Ikhas Khan drew his company of archers together to conceal the Muslim artillery as the Hindus advanced. When Vijayanagar’s forces were close to the heavy battery, the archers fell back and the artillery opened fire. Vijayanagar retreated in confusion, followed by 5,000 cavalry from Bijapur, who routed the center of the Hindu line.

At the height of the battle, two Muslim commanders deserted the Vijayanagar army, taking with them 70,000-80,000 men each. In the resulting confusion, Rama Raya was captured on the battlefield and beheaded. When his head was displayed on a lance, Vijayanagar’s forces fled the field under the command of Rama Raya’s brother, Tirumala. They retreated to Vijayanagar City, where they collected the puppet emperor Sadashiva, his throne, and the imperial treasure. Abandoning the capital, they fled further into Vijayanagar to the fort of Penukonda, 125 miles to the southeast.

The Muslim armies pursued the defeated army to the undefended capital. Vijayanagar City was plundered and destroyed. No eyewitness accounts of the sack of Vijayanagar exist, but the archaeological records speak for themselves. Fires were set in temples and gateways. Sculptures were smashed. Precious materials were looted. The city never recovered; its ruins, now known as Hampi, have stood vacant for more than 400 years.

About 100,000 men died in the battle and subsequent pursuit. The defeat at Talikota shattered the military strength of Vijayanagar. Although the last dynasty of Vijayanagar continued to rule smaller kingdoms in southern India for nearly a century, the “City of Victory” was no longer the dominant power in the Deccan.

The union of the Deccani sultanates did not survive. As soon as the threat of the great Hindu kingdom was gone, they resumed their territorial disputes and dynastic quarrels, leaving themselves open to the greater threat posed by the Mogul empire to the north.


The defeat of Pratap Singh, the Rana (ruler) of Mewar, at the Battle of Haldighati on June 21, 1576, was technically a Mogul victory. However, the Mogul general, Man Singh, was not able to establish control over the region or capture the Rana. Mewar did not become part of the Mogul Empire until 1617.

Although Pratap Singh’s defiance of Mogul rule is often portrayed as an example of early Hindu nationalism, the reality is more complex. Pratap Singh’s forces at the battle of Haldighati included Afghan nobles and Bhil tribesmen. The Mogul army was led by the Rajput general Raja Man Singh and included many Rajput soldiers.

Anticipating an attack by Mogul forces, Pratap Singh fortified strategic outposts throughout his stronghold in the Girwar and posted seasoned soldiers to defend the neck of the Haldighati. The Haldighati is a narrow mountain pass (ghati) in the hilly region of Mewar. Its rocks, when crushed, produce yellow sand that resembles the Indian spice turmeric, called haldi in Hindi. Before the construction of a modern highway, the mile and a half long pass was so narrow that two men could barely walk side by side through most of its length. It was here that Pratap Singh chose to force the inevitable battle with the army that Akbar had sent to defeat him.

According to an eyewitness account of the battle by the Muslim historian Badauni, the two generals marshaled their troops on June 18. The forces were well matched in numbers. Pratap Singh had about 3,000 horsemen, 2,000 Bhil bowmen on foot, 100 elephants, and 100 pike men, drummers, and trumpeters. Man Singh fielded 5,000 troops supported by elephants and the renowned Mogul artillery. The Mogul army was lined east to west along the neck of the ghati on a low, uneven plain called the Badshah Bagh, with Man Singh and his Rajput contingents at the center of the line and eighty skirmishers on the front line. Pratap Singh had arranged his forces just beyond the ghati’s neck in the traditional Rajput formation of a three-part front line with a reserve behind the central division.

The Rana’s troops quit their defensive position early on the morning of June 21. One wing charged the Mogul vanguard and dispersed it. This put the Rajputs in the Mogul army’s left wing to flight. A second wave of Mewar horsemen, led by Pratap Singh himself, charged the Mogul troops at the entrance of the pass and forced them back, allowing Mewar’s troops onto the Badshah Bagh.

Mogul forces in the vanguard, left, and center were forced to give up their positions. The Mogul right wing lured the Rana’s troops out of the readily defended Haldighati and onto the wider plain of Raktalalai nearby. Mitar Khan, the commander of the Mogul rear guard, rallied his forces and sent the reserves to aid the vanguard.

Meanwhile, the center line of battle, under the commands of Man Singh and Pratap Singh, was in deadlock. Both sides deployed their elephant corps without affect. The confusion in the center lines was such that Badauni reports that he was unable to distinguish friendly Rajputs from hostile Rajputs and shot his arrows indiscriminately on the advice of the Muslim general Asaf Khan, who told him “on whatever side they may be killed, it will be a gain to Islam.”

The battle lasted until mid-day, with only a few hundred casualties. Pratap Singh fled the field before the battle was over. His retreat was disguised by one of his captains, Jhala Bida, who held the Rana’s regalia and was killed in his place. When Bida fell, the remnants of the Rana’s regular forces retreated. Pratap Singh’s Bhil allies harassed the Mogul camp throughout the night, plundering their provisions and setting fire to their store of fodder.

When Man Singh reached Gogonda, Pratap Singh’s temporary capital, the day after the battle, the city was deserted. The Mogul troops occupied and fortified Gogonda, but found themselves trapped behind their own fortifications by the Rana’s guerrilla tactics. Man Singh’s forces were unable to occupy the region around Gogonda or capture Pratap Singh. With their supply lines cut, the Mogul troops were reduced to eating their own pack animals and the mangoes that grew abundantly in the town. The only tangible result of the Mogul victory was the capture of Ram Prasad, an elephant belonging to Pratap Singh that was renowned for its size and strength. Man Singh sent the captured elephant to Akbar as a trophy under the care of the historian Badauni and retreated to Ajmer in September 1576.

Akbar, suspecting a Rajput conspiracy, blamed Man Singh for the failure to capture the Rana and banished the general from the court for several years. Akbar occupied Gogonda himself in October 1576, determined to finish the job. Akbar stayed in Rajputana for six months but was no more successful at capturing Pratap Singh than his deputy had been.

Pratap Singh learned from his failures at Haldighati. He abandoned direct battle with his enemy in favor of the guerrilla tactics suited to both the landscape and his limited resources. Before his death in 1597, the Rana had recovered all his territories except Ajmer, Chitor and Mandalgarh.

Key Elements of Warcraft

Unique Indian Blades

The metal used in creating the famous blades of Damascus was imported from India. Indian steel was made by a special process that created a highly valued “watered” pattern on the blade. Hot crumbled iron was reheated in a crucible with charcoal heaped around it until the iron became partly recarbonized. When the iron was later drawn out on the anvil as steel, it showed a beautiful pattern of lines as a result of the crystallizing of the metal.

When the Mongol conqueror Timur captured Damascus in about 1400, he moved its skilled artisans to Samarqand. Damascus continued to be a distribution center for fine weapons, but Persia and India took the Syrian capital’s place as the best manufacturers of fine blades. Indian sword-making reached its height during the Mogul empire.

In addition to making fine swords, the swordsmiths of India created blades unique to the Indian sub-continent. Some of them include:

Baghnakh, or Tiger Claws

Tiger claws were formed of five curved steel hooks connected to a flat bar of steel. The steel had rings on either end that fitted on the index and little fingers like brass knuckles. The baghnakh could be concealed by closing the hand over it. It was sometimes disguised by setting the steel rings with precious stones so that it looked like the wearer had on real rings. The weapon was used to tear open the victim’s throat or belly, as a tiger might.

Bichwa, or Scorpion

The bichwa was originally a Maratha weapon. It takes its name from its double-edged, double-curved blade, which is the shape of a scorpion’s tail. The hilt is formed into a loop for the hand. Sometimes the bichwa was combined with tiger claws into a single weapon.

Bhuj, or Elephant Dagger

The bhuj comes from the city of Bhuj in Kutch. Its blade is a little over an inch wide and about eight inches long, with an S-shaped edge. Its grip is a circular piece of steel more than twice as long as the blade. At the base of the blade is a stylized elephant’s head. The bhuj was used for thrusting and piercing as well as for slashing and cutting. Its long grip made it well suited for two-handed use.

Chakra, or War Quoit

Sometimes called sun and moon rings, chakras were thin, flat, steel rings sharpened on the outside edge. The sharpened edge could be either smooth or serrated. The warrior twirled the chakra around his forefinger, raised his hand above his head, and launched it. Chakras were a Sikh weapon. Sikh warriors carried as many as six at one time on the top of their high conical turbans or around their arms. Skilled users of the chakra could be accurate to a distance of about sixty yards.

Jamadhar, or Katar

The jamadhar, sometimes called the katar, is a punch dagger. It was originally a Rajput blade, though the Moguls rapidly adopted it. It is a triangular blade with a cross bar grip and parallel side bars that extend up the forearms. The point is thickened. Most daggers are held perpendicular to the forearm and the thrust comes from the elbow or shoulder. The jamadhar is held by the cross grip, putting the blade in line with the forearm so that the thrust is a straight punch with the weight of the entire body behind it. When used properly, it can split open chain mail.

Kora and Kukhri

The kora and kukhri are the famous blades carried by the Gurkhas of Nepal. The kora was the historical war weapon of the Gurkhas. It was, and still is, also used for the ritual decapitation of animals in religious ceremonies. It is a single edge blade that is narrow at the root, curves sharply forward, and widens abruptly at the tip. The kukhri is a short, heavy, forward-angled blade that broadens toward the tip. There is a small nick at the root of the blade with a projecting tooth at the bottom. It was used as a jungle and hunting knife as well as for war. The kukhri was carried in a belted sheath. A small sheath attached to the back of the larger sheath held two kukhri shaped implements: a blunt sharpening steel and a small skinning knife. According to Nepalese folklore, a Gurkha will never sheath his blade unless he draws blood with it. Both blades are heavier at the point, which gives force to a swung blow. There are documented cases of Gurkhas splitting through the head of a man and down into his chest with a single blow.


The maru was a thrusting and parrying weapon used by the Marathas and the Bhil tribes. It was made of a pair of antelope horns fixed horizontally to a small parrying shield. The tips of the horns were covered with pointed steel caps. The shield acted as a handguard and was made of metal or leather.

Pata, or Gauntlet Sword

The pata was a favorite sword of the Marathas. It was a long, double-edged, flexible blade with a metal gauntlet that covered the arm almost to the elbow. The inside of the gauntlet was padded with velvet. Thin steel straps at the top of the gauntlet anchored it to the forearm. The swordsman would grip the sword by a crossbar inside the gauntlet so that the blade became an extension of the arm. The pata was useless for fencing, but was well-suited for an armed horseman who could use it as a lance as well as a sword.

Zafar Takiya, or Pillow Sword

The zafar takiya was carried by Indian princes when they were giving audience. It was kept under the cushion in case of emergency. The hilt was crutch-shaped. Because they were used in a court setting, these blades were often elaborately decorated.

Impact on World History

The Mogul dynasty ruled northern India for 200 years. At its peak, the Mogul Empire covered more territory than any other Indian empire, recreating an ideal of India as a single political unity in that had not been realized since the Guptas ruled the sub-continent between 300 and 500.

Unlike the Safavid and Ottoman empires that developed in much the same period, the Moguls ruled over a population that was predominantly non-Muslim. Moreover, most of the Muslims in India were Hindu converts. The Mogul nobility were both a religious and ethnic minority within their own empire. Babur remained a Chagaty Turk who felt that “Hindustan is a place of little charm”; under his heirs, India and the Moguls alike were changed. The Mogul court and bureaucracy became a synthesis of Indian, Persian, and Turkish culture. Indian daughters were given in marriage to members of the Mogul dynasty. (At least two Mogul emperors had Rajput mothers.) Afghan nobles served in the Rajput armies and Rajput generals led Mogul troops. Hindu administrators worked in Persian language law courts. Persian miniature painters adapted motifs and techniques from the indigenous traditions. The Indian language of Urdu is a combination of Persian script and vocabulary with Hindi grammar and pronunciation. Law, administrative systems, literature, art, and architecture all benefited from this complex cultural blending.

But this cultural blending did not necessarily mean tolerance. Muslim rulers whipsawed between attraction and repugnance in their treatment of their non-Muslim subjects. Under some Mogul rulers, like Akbar, there was a large-scale assimilation of indigenous elements. Under others, most notably Aurangzeb, religious persecution divided the empire’s population.

The Moguls’ twin legacy of universalism and communalism fundamentally shaped the policies of their political successors, the British East India Company and, later, the British Empire. (The British even adapted the Indo-Islamic style of architecture for their own use.) Although they never conquered the Moguls’ old power base, Afghanistan, the British ruled the sub-continent as a single imperial unit in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. At the same time, they classified and divided different social groups within the Empire through the use of legal codes and ethnographic distinctions: Muslim and Hindu, military and non-military, urban and rural, westernized and non-westernized.

In the end, communalism proved to be the stronger force, leading to the partition of British India into the independent nations of India and Pakistan in 1947.