Advent of Muslims in India

The Arabs were the first Muslims to come to India. They conquered Sind and Multan in 712 But they could not set up their kingdom in India. About three hundred years later (997-1030) Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni led a series of plundering raids, about 17 in number. He attacked and defeated Jaipal, the king of Punjab in 1001, attacked and conquered Lahore in 1021 and put it under the control of a Muslim governor. In 1025, he attacked and plundered Som Nath Temple in Kathiawar. These Muslim incursions did not, however, produce any serious effect in the vast interior of the sub-continent. The Muslim invaders soon became a spent force and for about a hundred years, India remained immune from any foreign invasion. In 1186, Mohd. Ghori appeared on the scene. He occupied Lahore in 1186. In 1191 he was defeated by Prithvi Raj Chohan at the Battle of Tarain near Thaneswar but next year he returned and fought a desperate battle on the same battlefield in which he completely defeated the Hindus. Thus commenced the Muslim rule in India.

Delhi Sultanate

The dynasties which ruled from Delhi till the coming of the Mughals in the 16th century were the Slaves, the Khiljis, the Tughlaqs, the Sayyids and the Lodis. This phase of Indian history is known as the Sultanate period. Under Altmash and Balban, they extended their sway over practically the whole of north India. Ala-ud-din, a powerful monarch of Khilji dynasty was able to carry the Muslim arms to the extreme South of India. But the Sultanate rapidly disintegrated after the death of Mohammed Tughlaq.

Although the impact of Islam was quite distinct, yet it could not bring about any violent change in Indian life. After the storm and stress of invasions, a general feeling of mutual harmony and tolerance in different spheres of life was generated.

The architectures of that period harmoniously blended Indian and Islamic traditions as represented at Jaunpur, Lakhnauti and Mandu. At the same time, traditional Hindu architecture did not lag behind as represented by Chittorgarh structures, Surya Temple at Konarak, magnificent temples and palaces of Hoysala period at Halebid, Belur and Somnathpur and of the Vijayanagar period at Hampi, Kanchipuram, Srirangam, Tadpatri and Vellore.

The Mughals

The foundation of the Mughal rule in India was laid by Babur in 1526. Babur was a descendant of Chingez Khan and Timur. He defeated Ibrahim Lodi in first Battle of Panipat and established Mughal dynasty which lasted till the establishment of British rule in India.

Akbar, the greatest of the Mughals, embarked upon a policy of recovery and expansion. He extended his sway over an area stretching from Kandhar in the west to Dacca in the east and from Srinagar in the north to Ahmednagar in the south. He consolidated his conquests by establishing a system of civil government which none of his predecessors could do. He thus turned a mere military occupation into a well-ordered empire. He was a great organiser, warrior, statesman and patron of art and literature. His court was adorned by soldiers, statesmen, scholars and singers.

Secularism during the reign of Akbar: Akbar was the real founder of the Mughal Empire and the first Muslim ruler who divorced religion from politics. He removed all individual distinctions based on race and religion and broad-based his government on the willing support of the people. He not only brought about political integration of the greater part of the country by his policies based on secularism but also converted the alien kingdom into something like a national empire. He was able to see through the Indian situation correctly and wisely attempted to win over the leading Rajputs by friendly persuasion wherever possible. He promoted the national outlook both in politics and culture.

Din-i-Ilahi was a new religion promulgated by Akbar in 1581. It contained elements adopted from all religions.

The Mughal Empire reached the zenith of its expansion under Aurangzeb. But he died a defeated man and contributed, more than any one else, to the fall of the Mughal Empire. He thought and acted in terms of an Islamic State and considered it his duty to wage Jihads against the unbelievers. He also encouraged large-scale conversions, and re-imposed the hated jaziya and pilgrim tax on the Hindus.

The Hindus were thus convinced that the Mughal Empire under Aurangzeb was an Islamic and not a national State. The policies followed by Aurangzeb ultimately led to the rise of Marhattas under Shivaji, transformation of the Sikhs into a martial brotherhood and the estrangement of the Rajputs.

Main causes which led to the downfall of the Mughal Empire in India:

  1. The Mughal Empire had become too big and unwieldy and could not be effectively governed from a single centre.
  2. Aurangzeb’s policy of religious intolerance was largely responsible for the downfall of the Mughal Empire. The government was a personal despotism and lacked popular support.
  3. The successors of Aurangzeb were not competent rulers. They were only ornamental figureheads. Most of them were worthless debauchees who cared little about the welfare of the State. They were more dependent on unscrupulous ministers.
  4. The rivalry, intrigues and corruption gave rise to administrative chaos. There were fratricidal or patricidal struggles for the throne. The nobility under the later Mughals were mostly selfish, parasitical and treacherous.
  1. Attacks of Nadir Shah and Ahmed Shah Abdali left the Mughal Empire only in Delhi and surrounding areas.
  2. The Mughal Empire had “shallow roots” and therefore collapsed with a dramatic suddenness within a few decades after Aurangzeb’s death.

Nadir Shah’s invasion of India: Nadir Shah invaded India in 1739 after the death of Aurangzeb. His invasion so dislocated the central Mughal authority that the Punjab easily passed into the hands of the Sikhs. The invasion of Nadir Shah also sealed the fate of the Mughal Empire and cleared the way for the rise of the Marathas.

Mughal Influence on Indian Architecture: The Mughal style of architecture has had a decisive influence on Indian architects from the 17th century onwards. This is evident in the widespread use of the curvilinear roof combined with arches, pavilions and domes. This is, however, not to say that the Indian architects became mere copyists of the Mughals. In fact they so absorbed and assimilated the foreign influence that they made it subserve their own inventive powers and genius. An example of this synthesis of the two styles are the Hawa Mahal of Jaipur. In this structure, perforated screens, domes, curvilinear roofs, arch-shaped openings are all non-Hindu elements, but the over-all design reflects the style of the temple towers in Odisa and Tamil Nadu.