Mughal Empire: The Empire Which Ruled Most of South Asia for 200 Years

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The Mughal Empire was an empire that was in control of most of South Asia between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. The empire covered areas from the Indus basin, northern Afghanistan, Kashmir, parts of Assam and Bangladesh, and areas of the Decccan plateau.

The empire is believed to have been founded by Babur, a warrior chieftain from Uzbekistan, in the year 1526. In the First Battle of Panipat, Babur recruited aid from the Safavid and Ottoman empires to defeat Ibrahim Lodhi, the Sultan of Delhi.

Some believe that the colonial structure of the Mughal empire dates to the year 1600, when Akbar (Babur’s grandson and the third Mughal emperor) was in power.

The empire reached the peak of it’s geographical influence whilst Aurangzeb, the last major emperor, was ruling. The Mughal empire’s colonial structure continued until 1720, not long after Aurangzeb’s death.

At the time in which Aurangzeb came to power, the Mughal Empire was recorded to contain 455,698 villages.

When Akbar was in rule in 1600, the empire’s population was reported to be a total of 17 million people. Also under Akbar’s rule, the empire contained 120 large cities and 3,200 townships, according to Nizamuddin Ahmad – a historian. Several cities in India had very large populations, such as Agra (in Agra Subah) with up to 800,000 people and Dhaka (in Bengal Subah) with in excess of one million people.

When the Mughal empire saw it’s decline, the area it influenced had condensed down to contain only the Old Delhi region and surrounding areas. Much of the empire’s decline occurred whilst the East India Company was in rule. After the Indian Rebellion in 1857, the British Raj officially established the dissolution of the Mughal empire.

The foundation of the Mughal empire’s combined wealth was believed to be agricultural taxes. This tax system was established by Akbar, and the taxes were paid in silver currency.

A contributing factor to the growth of India’s economy at the time was the peace maintained by the Mughal empire. More wealth was generated as the increased European presence in the Indian Ocean brought with it a rise in demand for both raw and packaged products.

The expenditure of the Mughal elite also noticeably grew. The growth resulted in larger investments to many sectors, such as painting, textiles and architecture.

Mughal architecture is prominent in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Some examples include the Taj Mahal and the Lahore Fort.

The legacy of the Mughal Empire can still be seen in cultural influences in the countries of Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and Bangladesh. For example, the culinary influences are seen in the Mughlai cuisine, which is a combination of styles from South and Central Asia, and Iran. Other examples of the Mughal influence include the establishment of waterworks similar to those utilised in Iran, and the new addition of Turkish baths to areas of South Asia.