ETHNONYMS: Moghul, Mugal, Mughal
Although the last Mogul emperor died in 1857, the Mogul people have not disappeared from India and Pakistan (especially the Punjab states). In 1911 there were some 60,000 Moguls. They have been variously called a tribe or a caste of Muslims, though neither term is exact and probably "descent group" would be more appropriate. Moguls are highly regarded, and their womenfolk still practice purdah. The name "Mogul" is derived from the Persian word for "Mongol."
Of the main Muslim groups in Pakistan and India, Sayyids rank highest, as being "descendants of the Prophet"; they are followed by Sheikhs; Moguls rank third; and Pathans are fourth. These four groups, which are largely endogamous, rank above other South Asian Muslims as being "Ashraf " (i.e., of foreign origin).
There is a broad continuity in the Muslim history of the subcontinent, but with the foundation of the Mogul Empire in a.d. 1526 we reach a political and cultural watershed. There was a much greater continuity in administration, as members of the same dynasty sat on the throne for more than 300 years, while Moguls also ushered in an era of a much richer cultural life. They were the first Muslim rulers of Delhi to patronize and encourage painting and music, and in the realm of architecture their monuments challenge comparison with similar achievements anywhere in the world.
In 1519 Babur, the founder of the Mogul Empire, first appeared in India. In so doing he was following a family tradition. His ancestors, Chenghiz Khan and Timur the Lame, had both invaded India, the former in the thirteenth and the latter in the fourteenth century. Neither of these invasions had any lasting effects, though Babur declared that the principal object of his invasion was to recover the lost possessions of his family. Babur's rule started in 1526-1530. It shortly fell to Humayun (1530-1540), who lost control to an Afghan chieftain, Sher Shah (1539-1545). His son Akbar (1556-1605) fought the Afghan challenge at Panipat (1556) and extended the empire to include all land between Afghanistan and the Deccan. Akbar's time was a period of religious Freedom, in which a policy of conciliation was pursued with the Rajput states. Akbar was succeeded by Jehangir (1605-1627) and Shah Jehan (1627-1658). Its last great emperor was Aurangzeb (1658-1707), who extended the limits of the empire farther south. The empire disintegrated under Maratha and British pressure. Its last emperor, Bahadur Shah II (1837—1857), was exiled by the British to Rangoon after the 1857 uprising.
The splendor and stability of the Mogul reign were due to the succession of those capable rulers. They attempted to build up an efficient administrative system, and they chose their principal officers with care and on the basis of merit.
A number of factors were responsible for what appears to have been the sudden collapse of the Mogul authority after the death of Aurangzeb, but one cause was predominant. The Moguls maintained a powerful empire for centuries and established a government and a social organization impressive by Asiatic standards, but they were not able to keep pace with the rapid, almost cataclysmic changes that were taking place in intellectual matters, military organization, instruments of offense and defense, and other factors that contribute to the stability and prosperity of a state. The intellectual revolution in western Europe, the new spirit and the new discoveries, and the wide diffusion of knowledge resulting from the introduction of printing had released forces that were bound to result in European domination.
See also Muslim; Pathan; Sayyid; Sheikh
Gascoigne, Bamber (1971). The Great Moghuls. New York: Harper & Row.
Haig, Wolseley, and Richard Burn, eds. (1937). The Cambridge History of India. Vol. 4, The Mughul Period. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Hansen, Waldemar (1972). The Peacock Throne: The Drama of Mogul India. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.
Majumdar, R. C., J. N. Chaudhuri, and S. Chaudhuri, eds. (1984). The Mughul Empire. The History and Culture of the Indian People, no. 7. Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.
ALLIYA S. ELAHI
mo·gul1 / ˈmōgəl/ • n. 1. inf. an important or powerful person, esp. in the motion picture or media industry. 2. (Mogul) a steam locomotive with three pairs of driving wheels and one pair of smaller wheels in the front. mo·gul2 • n. a bump on a ski slope formed by the repeated turns of skiers over the same path: [as adj.] a mogul field.
Mogul, Muslim empire of India: see Mughal.