chapter  5
8 Pages

India between empires

Decline or decentralization?
WithSugata Bose, Ayesha Jalal

This chapter discusses what emerges is a mixed scenario of shadow and light, with high points and low points. It is important in any study of India between empires not to confuse the erosion of power of the Mughal court and army with a more general political, economic and societal decline. Even as Aurangzeb projected Mughal power to its farthest territorial extent, the costs of military campaigns sorely undermined the financial basis of his empire. In addition to internal contradictions, a couple of major trends outside the subcontinent exerted serious pressures on the Mughal empire. The weakening of the Mughal emperor and nobility enabled the strengthening of other groups who were the products of dynamic processes of social mobility and change. The decline of the Mughal capitals Delhi and Agra, however, was offset by the rise of regional capitals, including Lucknow, Hyderabad, the various Maratha cities and Seringapatam. Mughal legitimacy proved to be longer lasting than Mughal power.