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Safavid and Mughal WHAP/Napp

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The Mughals, a mixture of Mongol and Turkish peoples from Central Asia, rose to power a little later than the Ottomans, beginning their invasion of India in 1526. Under four generations of commanding emperors – Akbar (r. 1556-1605), Jehangir (r. 1605-27), Shah Jahan (r. 1627-58) and Aurangzeb (r.1658-1707) – they dominated most of the subcontinent, ruling it from splendid capitals that they built in the north, and from mobile tent-cities that they occupied while fighting throughout the subcontinent. Although they continued to rule in name until 1858, the Mughals began to decline as a result of Aurangzeb’s extended military campaigns, which wasted the financial and human resources of his empire and also antagonized the Hindu majority population over whom the Mughals, who were Muslims, ruled.

Akbar the Great was raised on stories of his ancestors, Timur the Lame and Chinggis Khan, and of his grandfather, Babur [the founder of the Mughal Empire]. Akbar now set about creating an empire of his own. He showed no mercy to those who would not submit to his rule. In 1572-3, Akbar conquered Gujarat, gaining control of its extensive commercial networks and its rich resources of cotton and indigo; then came Bengal to the east, with its rice, silk, and saltpeter. Kashmir to the north, Orissa to the south, and Sind to the west followed. Each new conquest brought greater riches.
Akbar understood immediately that as a foreigner and a Muslim in an overwhelmingly Hindu country, he would have to temper conquest with conciliation. He appointed Hindus to a third of the posts in his centralized administration. In 1562 Akbar discontinued the practice of enslaving prisoners of war and forcing them to convert to Islam. In 1563 he abolished a tax on Hindu pilgrims traveling to sacred shrines. The next year, most importantly, he revoked the jizya, the head tax levied on non-Muslims. Between 20 and 25 percent of India’s population became Muslim, most through conversion, the rest the result of immigration from outside.
Akbar encouraged and participated personally in religious discussions among Muslims, Hindus, Parsis (Indians who followed Zoroaster, their name means ‘Persians,’ where Zoroaster had his greatest influence), and Christians (Jesuits visiting the court mistook his enquiries into Catholic doctrine as a willingness to convert). Sufis spread their message in Hindi, a modern derivative of Sanskrit, the sacred language of Hindus. At the same time they inspired the creation of Urdu (camp) language, the language of common exchange between the invaders and the resident population. Urdu used the syntactical structure of Hindi, the alphabet of Arabic and Persian, and a vocabulary of words drawn from Sanskrit, Persian and Arabic. Akbar, in particular, encouraged these kinds of cultural syncretism and the mixing of groups. In 1582, he declared a new personal religion, the Din-i-Ilahi, or Divine Faith, an amalgam of Islamic, Hindu, and Persian perspectives.”

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