How India Changed in The Mid 18th Century


The boundaries of the Mughal Empire were reshaped by the emergence of a number of independent kingdoms during the first half of the eighteenth century. the first half of the eighteenth century saw the emergence of new political groups in the subcontinent. 

Roughly from 1707, when Aurangzeb died, till the third battle of Panipat in 1761.

The Mughal Crisis:

Extent of Mughal Empire in 1700 AD:

The military and financial resources of Mughal empire was depleted by Emperor Aurangzeb by fighting a long war in the Deccan.

The offices of revenue and military administration (diwani and faujdari) were controlled by Nobles who were appointed as governors(subadars) giving them extraordinary political, economic and military powers over vast regions of the Mughal Empire.

Northern and western Indian Peasant and zamindari rebellions added more fuel to these problems.

Emergence of New States:

The Mughal Empire gradually fragmented into a number of independent regional states throughout the 18th Century.

Those independent regional States can be divided into three overlapping groups:

Awadh, Bengal, and Hyderabad were one of those important states in Old Mughal provinces. The rulers of these states did not break their formal ties with the Mughal emperor although they were extremely powerful and quite independent.

The Mughals considered the independent states as watan jagirs. Several Rajput principalities were also included in this. Marathas, Sikhs and others like the Jats all seized their independence from the Mughals after a long-drawn armed struggle.


The founder of Hyderabad state was Nizam-ul-Mulk Asaf Jah. He was appointed by Mughal Emperor Farrukhsiyar. He was entrusted with the governorship of the Deccan after he successfully governed Awadh.

He was quite independent in his rule without seeking any direction from Delhi or facing any interference. The Marathas to the west and the independent Telugu warrior chiefs (nayakas) were in constant struggle against the state of Hyderabad.


In 1722 Burhan-ul-Mulk Sa'adat Khan was appointed subadar of Awadh. The rich alluvial Ganga plain and the main trade route between north India and Bengal made Awadh a prosperous region. The combined offices of subadari, diwani and faujdari were held by Burhan-ul-Mulk.

Burhan-ul-Mulk reduced the number of office holders (jagirdars) appointed by the Mughals in order to decrease Mughal influence in the Awadh region. The state was depended on local bankers and mahajans for loans.

It sold the right to collect the tax to the highest bidders. Considerable freedom were given in the assessment and collection of taxes to those “revenue farmers” (ijaradars) who agreed to pay the state a fixed sum of money.

These developments allowed new social groups to influence the management of the state’s revenue system, such as the moneylenders and bankers. It was something which had not occurred in the past.


Murshid Quli Khan was appointed as the naib of Bengal, deputy to the governor of the province and he was neither a formal subadar. With his presence Bengal gradually broke away from Mughal control.

He also commanded the revenue administration of the state like the rulers of Hyderabad and Awadh. He transferred all Mughal jagirdars to Orissa and ordered a major reassessment of the revenues of Bengal in order to reduce Mughal influence in Bengal.

All zamindars were greatly strict in collecting revenue which was collected in cash only. This shows that richest merchants, and bankers were gaining a stake in the new political order in all 3 States Hyderabad, Awadh, Bengal.

The Watan Jagirs of the Rajputs:

Many Rajput kings were permitted to enjoy considerable autonomy in their watan jagirs, particularly those belonging to Amber and Jodhpur. These rulers attempted to extend their control over adjacent regions in the 18th century.

So Sawai Raja Jai Singh of Amber was governor of Malwa while Raja Ajit Singh of Jodhpur held the governorship of Gujarat. They also tried to extend their territories by seizing portions of imperial territories neighbouring their watans.

Seizing Independence:

The Sikhs:

During the seventeenth century the organisation of the Sikhs into a political community helped in building the regional state in the Punjab. The Rajput and Mughal rulers fought against the Sikh leader Guru Gobind Singh but after this death, it was under Banda Bahadur’s the fight continued.

“Resolutions of the Guru (gurmatas)” or collective decisions were taken when the entire body used to meet in Amritsar at the time of Baisakhi and Diwali. Offering protection to cultivators on the payment of a tax of 20 percent of the produce was introduced, this system was known as Rakhi.

The Sikhs put up a successful resistance to the Mughal governors first and then to Ahmad Shah Abdali with their well-knit organisation. Ahmad Shah Abdali seized the rich province of the Punjab and the Sarkar of Sirhind from the Mughals.

In 1765 Khalsa declared their suggestion rule by striking their own coin. The coin was same as that of Band Bahadur’s time. In 1799 Maharaja Ranjit Singh reunited the groups and established his capital at Lahore.

The Marathas:

The Mughal rule found another sustained opposition with the rise of the Marathas. The support of powerful warrior families (deshmukhs) helped Shivaji (1637-1680) to carve out a stable kingdom. 

The backbone of the Maratha army were the groups of highly mobile, peasant- pastoralists (kunbis). Poona became the capital of the Maratha kingdom. Peshwas developed a very successful military organisation after Shivaji. 

They raided cities and engaged against Mughal armies in areas where their supply lines and reinforcements could be easily disturbed. The entire Deccan peninsula recognised the Maratha King as the overlord by 1730s. 

The right to levy chauth[25 per cent of the land revenue claimed by zamindars] was possessed by him and he also had control over sardeshmukhi[9-10 per cent of the land revenue paid to the head revenue collector in the Deccan] in the entire region.

In 1737, the Marathas raided Delhi to expend their domination. Though these areas were not formally included in the Maratha empire but were made to pay tribute as a way of accepting Maratha sovereignty.

The Marathas became hostile to other rulers by these military campaigns. As a result, in 1761 during the third battle of Panipat they were not inclined to support the Marathas.

By all accounts cities[Malwa, Ujjain etc] were large and prosperous and functioned as important both as commercial and cultural centers showing the effective administration capacities of Marathas.

The Jats:

The late 17th and 18th-centuries saw Jats consolidating their powers. By the 1680s, under their leader, Churaman, they begun dominating the region between the two imperial cities of Delhi and Agra and they also acquired control over territories situated to the west of the city of Delhi.

Panipat and Ballabgarh became important trading centers in the areas dominated by them as the Jats were prosperous agriculturists. Many of the city’s notables took refuge there when Nadir Shah (Shah of Iran) sacked Delhi in 1739. 

Maratha and Sikh troops were assembled by his son Jawahir Shah in order to fight Mughal.

Emergence of British as a Supreme Power

British Territories in India-18th Century:

By 1765, Major chunks of territory in eastern India was successfully grabbed by the British. Which started the era of British rule in India till 1947 when we finally got our independence.

India in 18th century saw some drastic changes both politically and economically which makes it important for Indian History.

Written by: Gourav Chowdhury

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