Shah Alam II
|Shah Alam II|
Shah Alam II and the Mughal imperial throne.
|15th Mughal Emperor|
|Reign||10 October 1760 – 19 November 1806|
|Coronation||24 December 1759|
|Successor||Akbar Shah II|
Taj Mahal Begum
Jamil un-nisa Begum
Qudsia Begum Mubaraq Mahal
Murad Bakht Begum
|Issue||Over 16 sons and 2 daughters|
|Mother||Nawab Zinat Mahal Sahiba|
25 June 1728|
Shahjahanabad, Subah of Delhi, Mughal Empire
|Died||19 November 1806
Shahjahanabad, Subah of Delhi, Mughal Empire
|Burial||Red Fort, Delhi|
Ali Gauhar (25 June 1728 – 19 November 1806), historically known as Shah Alam II, the eighteenth Mughal Emperor, was the son of Alamgir II. Shah Alam II became the emperor of a crumbling Mughal empire, his power was so depleted during his reign that it led to a saying in Persian, Sultanat-e-Shah Alam, Az Dilli te Palam, meaning, 'The kingdom of Shah Alam is from Delhi to Palam', Palam being a suburb of Delhi.
Shah Alam faced many invasions mainly by the Emir of Afghanistan, Ahmed Shah Abdali, which led to the Third Battle of Panipat between the Maratha Empire, who maintained suzerainty over Mughal affairs in Delhi and the Afghans led by Abdali. In 1760, the invading forces of Abdali were driven away by the Marathas, led by Sadashivrao Bhau, who deposed Shah Jahan III, the puppet Mughal emperor of Imad-ul-Mulk, and installed Shah Alam II as the rightful emperor under the Maratha suzerainty.
Shah Alam II was considered the only and rightful emperor but he wasn't able to return to Delhi until 1772, under the protection of the Maratha general Mahadaji Shinde. He is known to have fought against the British East India Company during the Battle of Buxar.
Escape from Delhi
Prince Ali Gauhar, afterwards Emperor Shah Alam II, had been the heir apparent of his father Alamgir II. Prince Ali Gauhar's father had been appointed Mughal Emperor by Vizier Imad-ul-Mulk and Maratha Peshwa's brother Sadashivrao Bhau who had completely dominated and later killed Alamgir II and kept Prince Ali Gauhar under surveillance. After a daring escape from Delhi, Prince Ali Gauhar appeared in the eastern provinces in 1759, hoping to strengthen his position by gaining control over Bengal, Bihar and Odisha.
Very soon however, Najib-ud-Daula, forced the usurper Imad-ul-Mulk to flee from the capitol after he gathered a large Mughal Army outside Delhi, which deposed the recreant Shah Jahan III. Najib-ud-Daula and Muslim nobles and then planned to defeat Marathas by maintaining correspondence with the powerful Ahmad Shah Durrani. After Ahmad Shah Durrani decisively defeated the Marathas, he nominated Ali Gauhar as the emperor under the name Shah Alam II.
In the year 1760 after gaining control over Bengal, Bihar & parts of Odisha, the Mughal Crown Prince Ali Gauhar and his Mughal Army of 30,000 intended to overthrow Mir Jafar and Imad-ul-Mulk after they tried to capture or kill him by advancing towards Awadh and Patna in 1759. But the conflict soon involved the intervention of the assertive East India Company. The Mughals clearly intended to recapture their breakaway Eastern Subah's and were led by Prince Ali Gauhar, who was accompanied by Muhammad Quli Khan, Kadim Husein, Kamgar Khan, Hidayat Ali, Mir Afzal and Ghulam Husain Tabatabai. Their forces were reinforced by the forces of Shuja-ud-Daula, Najib-ud-Daula and Ahmad Shah Bangash. The Mughals were also joined by Jean Law and 200 Frenchmen and waged a campaign against the British during the Seven Years' War.
Prince Ali Gauhar successfully advanced as far as Patna, which he later besieged with a combined army of over 40,000 in order to capture or kill Ramnarian a sworn enemy of the Mughals. Mir Jafar was fraught in terror at the near demise of his cohort and sent his own son Miran to relieve Ramnarian and retake Patna. Mir Jafar also implored the aid of Robert Clive, but it was Major John Caillaud, who dispersed Prince Ali Gauhar's army in the year 1761 after four major battles including Battle of Patna, Battle of Sirpur, Battle of Birpur and Battle of Siwan.
After negotiations assuring peace Shah Alam II was escorted by the British to meet Mir Qasim the new Nawab of Bengal, who was nominated after the sudden death of Miran. Mir Qasim soon had the Mughal Emperor's investiture as Subedar of Bengal, Bihar and Odisha, and agreed to pay an annual revenue of 2.4 million dam. Shah Alam II then retreated to Allahabad was protected by the Shuja-ud-Daula, Nawab of Awadh from 1761 until 1764. Meanwhile Mir Qasim's relations with the British began to worsen he initiated reforms that withdrew many of the advantages enjoyed by the British East India Company, he also ousted Ramnarian a sworn enemy of the Mughal Empire and created Firelock manufacturing factories at Patna with the sole purpose of giving advantage to the newly reformed Mughal Army.
Angered by the these developments the East India Company sought his ouster. Mir Qasim was chased out of Bengal, Bihar and Odisha; he encouraged Shuja-ud-Daula the Nawab of Awadh and even the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II to engage the British.
Battle of Buxar
The Battle of Buxar was fought on 22 October 1764 between the forces under the command of the British East India Company led by Hector Munro, and the combined armies of Mir Qasim, the Nawab of Bengal; Shuja-ud-Daula the Nawab of Awadh; the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II. The battle fought at Buxar, then within the territory of Bengal, a town located on the bank of the Ganges river, was a decisive victory for the British East India Company.
Soon after the Battle of Buxar, Shah Alam II, a sovereign who had just been defeated by the British, sought their protection by signing the Treaty of Allahabad in the year 1765. Shah Alam II granted the Diwani (right to collect revenue) of Bengal(which included Bihar and Odisha) to the British East India Company in return for an annual tribute of 2.6 million rupees. The company further secured for him the districts of Kora and Allahabad this allowed the British East India Company to directly tax more than 20 million people. Revenue was also collected by the deputy Nawab Muhammad Reza Khan.
Absence from Delhi
Shah Alam II's absence from Delhi was due to the terms of the treaty he had signed with the British. But his son and heir apparent Prince Mirza Jawan Bakht and Najib-ul-Daula, represented the emperor for the next 12 years in Delhi.
Return to Delhi
The emperor resided in the fort of Allahabad for six years, while Warren Hastings who had been appointed Governor of Bengal in 1774 discontinued the tribute of 2.6 million Rupees and also made over the districts of Allahabad and Kara to the Nawab of Awadh. These measures amounted to a repudiation of the company's vassalage as Diwan and the annexation of Bengal. Shah Alam II agreed to the consultation of the British, who advised him never to trust the Marathas.
In the year 1771 the Marathas under Mahadji Scindia returned to northern India and even captured Delhi. Shah Alam II, was escorted by Mahadji Scindia and left Allahabad in May 1771 and in January 1772 reached Delhi with a battle-ready force trained on the European model, under the command of his able and loyal commander, Mirza Najaf Khan, together they sought to restore some of the long lost glories of the Mughal Empire. Along with the Marathas they undertook to win the crown lands of Rohilkhand and defeated Zabita Khan, capturing the fort of Pathar garh with its treasure.
In the year 1787, an embassy of Bijaya Singh from Jodhpur presented itself to the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II, bringing homage and the golden key of the Fortress of Ajmer. The envoy explained that he was instructed by his masters Bijaya Singh, Pratab Singh the Kachwaha Dhiraj of Jaipur to present the golden key as a token of their wish that the Imperial army led by Shah Alam II himself should march to take complete possession of the empire once again.
Reformation of the Mughal Army
One of his first acts was to strengthen and raise a new Mughal Army, under the command of Mirza Najaf Khan capable of defending the Mughal Empire. This new army consisted of infantrymen who successfully utilized both Flintlocks and Talwars in combat formations, they utilized elephants for transportation and were less dependent on artillery and cavalry. Mirza Najaf Khan is also known to have introduced the more-effective Firelock muskets through his collaboration with Mir Qasim, the Nawab of Bengal.
Once the army was ready Mirza Najaf Khan and the Maratha chiefs jointly led the Mughal Army to victory when threatened by Zabita Khan and his Sikhs. The new Mughal Army then marched south of Delhi against the troublesome Jats, defeating them and capturing the lucrative revenue bearing district of Agra along with the numerous forts. The revenue from Agra was then collected by Mughal Army to pay regular imperial salaries rather than living in arrears as had become the trend in the latter half of the 18th century. This new army soon controlled a vast territory that stretched from the Satluj Valley in the west to the territories around Allahabad in the east, from Srinagar in the north to Gwalior in the south, however times were troubled and the Mughal Empire was surrounded by enemies on every side.
Following the collapse of the Mughal Empire in the 18th century, The Hindu Jat kingdom of Bharatpur waged many wars against the Mughal Delhi and carried out numerous invasions in Mughal territory. During one massive assault Jat's overran the Mughal garrison at Agra they plundered the city and the two great silver doors to the entrance of the famous Taj Mahal were looted and melted down by Suraj Mal in 1764. Suraj Mal's son Jawahar Singh, further extended the Jat power in Northern India and captured the territory in Doab, Ballabgarh and Agra.
Trouble with the Sikhs was constant, they suddenly emerged in the year 1764 and overran the Mughal Faujdar of Sirhind, Zain Khan Sirhindi, who fell in battle and ever since the Sikhs perpetually raided and plundered lands as far as Delhi practically every year. They marauded into Delhi three times in 11 years particularly in 1772, 1778 and 1783. And it is believed that the Sikhs even had informants, probably even the Viziers of Shah Alam II. There was ongoing warfare with the Sikhs who were marauding in eastern Punjab and plundering the Rohilla, Mewar and Jat lands. During Shah Alam II's reign the Sikhs fought not just with the Mughals, but with the Marathas, Rajputs, and Rohillas.
The Marathas took Delhi in 1772 before Shah Alam II arrived. Mirza Najaf Khan had restored a sense of order to the Mughal finances and administration and particularly reformed the Mughal Army. In 1777 Mirza Najaf Khan decisively defeated Zabita Khan's forces and repelled the Sikhs after halting their raids.
In 1778, after a Sikh incursion into Delhi, Shah Alam ordered their defeat by appointing, the Mughal Grand Vizier, Majad-ud-Daula marched with 20,000 Mughal troops against Sikh rebels into hostle territories, this action led to the defeat of the Mughal Army at Muzzaffargarh and later at Ghanaur, due to the mounted the casualties Shah Alam II reappointed Mirza Najaf Khan, who soon died of natural circumstances leaving the Mughal Empire weaker than ever.
In the year 1779, Mirza Najaf Khan carefully advanced his forces who successfully routed the treasonous Zabita Khan and his Sikh allies who lost more than 5,000 rebels in a single battle and never returned to threaten the Mughal Empire during the commander Mirza Najaf Khan's lifetime.
In the year 1783, Farzana Zeb un-Nissa had saved Delhi from an invasion and possible mass-plunder by a force of 30,000 Sikh rebels, under Baghel Singh, Jassa Singh Ramgarhia and Jassa Singh Ahluwalia.
After the defeats at Muzzaffargarh and later at Ghanaur, Majad-ud-Daula was arrested by the orders of Shah Alam II, who then recalled Mirza Najaf Khan. This led to the former Grand Vizier's arrest for causing miscalculations and collaborating with the enemies of the emperor. The traitor was imprisoned and a sum of two million dam in stolen revenue recovered from him. It was Shah Alam II's poor judgement and vacillation that led to his own downfall. Mirza Najaf Khan had given the Mughal Empire breathing space by having a powerful, well managed army in its own right. In 1779 the newly reformed Mughal Army decisively defeated Zabita Khan and his Sikh allies the rebels lost 5,000 men including their leader and therefore did not return during the lifetime of Mirza Najaf Khan. Unfortunately upon the general's death, Shah Alam's bad judgement prevailed. The dead man's nephew, Mirza Shafi whose valour had been proven during various occasions, was not appointed commander in chief. Shah Alam II instead appointed worthless individuals whose loyalty and record were questionable at best. They were soon quarreling over petty matters. Even the corrupt and treasonous former Grand Vizier, Majad-ud-Daula was restored to his former office, he later colluded with the Sikhs and reduced the size of the Mughal Army from over 20,000 to only 5,000 thus bringing the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II at the mercy of his ruffian enemies.
Nawab Majad-ud-Daula was followed by a known enemy of the Mughals, the grandson of Najib Khan, Ghulam Qadir, with his Sikh allies forced Shah Alam II to appoint him as the Grand Vizier of the Mughal Empire. Petty, avaricious and insane Ghulam Qadir ravaged the palaces in search of the Mughal treasure believed to be worth Rs 250 million. Unable to locate even a fraction of that sum and angered by the Mughal Emperor's attempts to eliminate him and his Sikh allies, Ghulam Qadir himself blinded Shah Alam II on 10 August 1788. A drunken ruffian, Ghulam Qadir behaved with gross brutality to the emperor and his family. Three servants and two water-carriers who tried to help the bleeding emperor were beheaded and according to one account, Ghulam Qadir would pull the beard of the elderly Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II. After ten horrible weeks during which the honor of the royal family and prestige of the Mughal Empire reached its lowest ebb, loyal subjects and allies of Shah Alam II, led by Farzana Zeb un-Nissa, Ismail Beg, Mirza Shafi, Asaf-Ud-Dowlah and Mahadaji Shinde fought their way into Delhi. The renegade Ghulam Qadir somehow escaped during the fray but was soon captured and executed by the forces loyal Mahadaji Shinde and the Mughal Emperor.
Thankful for her intervention, the blind Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II welcomed and bestowed special honors upon Farzana Zeb un-Nissa in the Red Fort and declared her to be "his most beloved daughter". He also appointed Mahadji Scindia as the Vakil e mutalik of the Mughal Emperor and awarded him the holy places of Mathura and Vrindavan. Agra fort was handed over to Scindia and a farman banning cow slaughter was proclaimed in the Mughal Empire. He became a puppet at the hands of Mahadji Scindia of the Marathas who were his protectors.
His power was so depleted by the end of his reign that it led to a saying 'The kingdom of Shah Alam is from Delhi to Palam'. Palam is a suburb of Delhi.
Arrival of British troops
The French threat in Europe and its possible repercussions in India caused the British to strive to regain the custody of Shah Alam II. The British feared that the French military officers might overthrow Maratha power and use the authority of the Mughal emperor to further French ambition in India.
Shah Alam II also corresponded with Hyder Ali and later with his son Tipu Sultan during their conflicts with the British East India Company during the Anglo-Mysore Wars and was very well informed about the expansionist agenda of the British.
After the Battle of Delhi (1803), on 14 September 1803 British troops entered Delhi and Shah Alam II, a blind old man, seated under a tattered canopy, came under British protection. The Mughal Emperor no longer had the military power to enforce his will, but he commanded respect as a dignified member of the House of Timur in the length and breadth of the country. The Nawabs and Subedars still sought formal sanction of the Mughal Emperor on their accession and valued the titles he bestowed upon them. They struck coins and read the Khutba (Friday sermons) in his name. The Marathas in 1804 under Yashwantrao Holkar tried to snatch Delhi from the British in Siege of Delhi (1804), but failed.
Shah Alam II died of natural causes.
His grave lies, next to the dargah of 13th century, Sufi saint, Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki at Mehrauli, Delhi in a marble enclosure, along with that of Bahadur Shah I (also known as Shah Alam I), and Akbar Shah II.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Shah Alam II.|
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- Shah Alam II (1728–1806)
- The Fall of the Moghul Empire of Hindustan – World Wide School
- Marathas and the English Company 1707–1800
Shah Alam IIBorn: 1728 Died: 1806
Akbar Shah II