Rise of Regional States in 18th Century | Successor States during 18th Century UPSC


 As the Mughal Empire weakened, local political and economic powers rose to the fore and increased their pressure. The end of the 17th century and the politics that followed saw extensive change. During the 18th century, a large number of independent and semi-independent powers arose over the disintegrating Mughal Empire and its fragmented political system, such as the Bengal, Awadh, Hyderabad, Mysore, and Maratha monarchies. The British had to overcome these forces to establish their dominance over India.

Rise of Regional States in 18th Century

Some of these states, such as Awadh and Hyderabad, can be called "succession states". These states arose out of the weakness in the central power of the Mughal Empire and the claim of independence by the governors of the Mughal provinces. However, almost all of them adopted the methods and methods of Mughal administration.


 Nizam-ul-Mulk Asafjah founded the Hyderabad state in 1724. 

◆ He had an important place among the Nawabs of the time after Aurangzeb.  

◆ He played an important role in removing the Syed brothers from the throne.  

◆ He received the title of Viceroy of Deccan.

◆ Between 1720 and 1722, he strengthened his position in the Deccan. 

◆ He was the Wazir of the empire from 1722 to 1724. But he soon became fed up with the work of the Wazir because Emperor Muhammad Shah thwarted all his efforts to improve the administration. 

◆ Therefore he decided to go back to the Deccan where he could safely maintain his supremacy. 

◆ Here he laid the foundation of the Hyderabad state which he ruled with an iron hand. 

◆ He never openly declared his independence from the central government, but he acted as a de facto independent ruler. 

◆ He fought wars without asking the central government of Delhi, made treaties, distributed titles, and granted jagirs and titles. 

◆ He adopted a policy of tolerance towards Hindus, for example, a Hindu, Puranchand, was his Diwan.

◆ He forced the large, rowdy zamindars to accept his power and excluded the powerful Marathas from his domain.

◆ He also tried to rid the revenue system of corruption.

 But after his death in 1748, Hyderabad fell prey to the same disruptive forces that were active in Delhi.

Carnetic state : 

Karnataka was a province of the Deccan Mughals and thus came under the authority of the Nizam of Hyderabad.  But in practice, just as the Nizam had become independent from the government of Delhi, in the same way the Naib Subedar of Karnataka, who was called the Nawab of Karnataka, had freed himself from the control of the Nawab of Deccan and made his position subordinate.

 Therefore, Nawab Saadatullah Khan of Karnataka had made his nephew Dost Ali his successor without the approval of the Nizam.

Later, after 1740, the situation in Karnataka deteriorated due to frequent conflicts for the Nawabi and this gave the opportunity to European trading companies to interfere directly in Indian politics.

 Bengal :

Taking advantage of the growing weakness of central power, two men of exceptional ability, Murshid Quli Khan and Ali Vardi Khan, made Bengal virtually independent.

Murshid Quli khan

◆ Murshid Quli Khan was made Subahdar of Bengal in 1717, but he was its de facto ruler only from 1700, when he was made Diwan. 

◆ He immediately freed himself from central control, although he continued to send the emperor large sums of money for regular visits.

◆ He freed Bengal from internal and external threats and established peace there.  Now Bengal became more or less free from the major rebellions of the landlords.  

There were only three rebellions during his rule. The first rebellion was led by Sitaram Rai, Uday Narayan and Ghulam Muhammad.  After that Shujaat Khan rebelled.  The last rebellion was that of Najat Khan.

 After defeating them, Murshid Quli Khan gave their zamindaris to his favoured Ramjeevan. Murshid Quli Khan died in 1727.  After that his son-in-law Shujauddin ruled Bengal till 1739.

Ali Vardi khan : 

◆ In his place came his son Sarfaraz Khan, who was removed from the throne in the same year and Ali Vardi Khan became the Nawab.

These three Nawabs gave peaceful and orderly administration to Bengal. 

 He promoted trade and industry. Murshid Quli Khan was frugal in administration. He managed Bengal's finances afresh. He converted a large part of the jagir land into Khalsa land through the new land revenue system and introduced the Ijara system (collection of land revenue on contract). From the local zamindars and merchant moneylenders, he recruited revenue-collecting peasants and merchant moneylenders.

He also granted Takawee loans to alleviate the distress of poor peasants and enable them to pay land revenue on time. He was thus able to increase the resources of the Bengal government. But the lease system increased the financial burden on farmers and landlords. 

Moreover, although he demanded only actual deposits and abolished unlawful taxes, he "extorted" taxes from landlords and peasants with great ruthlessness. One result of his reforms was that many of the old zamindars were driven out and replaced by the newly emerging lessees.

Murshid Quli Khan and subsequent Nawabs provided equal employment opportunities to Hindus and Muslims.  He appointed Bengalis, mostly Hindus, to the highest civil posts and many military posts.  

While choosing the monopolies, Murshid Quli Khan gave preference to local zamindars and moneylenders, many of whom were Hindus.  Thus it gave birth to a new landed aristocracy in Bengal.

 The three Nawabs believed that the expansion of trade was beneficial for the public and the government, so they encouraged all traders, Indian and foreign.  Arrangements were made for the security of roads and rivers by arranging regular police stations and posts.  

He stopped the private business of officers;  At the same time, he also took care that strict control should be kept on foreign trading companies and their servants and they should not be allowed to misuse their privileges.  He forced the servants of the English East India Company to follow the laws of the country and pay customs duties at par with other traders.

Ali Vardi Khan did not allow the British and French to fortify his factories in Calcutta and Chandernagore. In spite of all this, the Nawab of Bengal proved to be rather naïve and careless. The tendency of the English East India Company had begun after 1707 to use or threaten to use military force to press their demands.

The Nawabs did not strongly suppress this tendency. He had the power to respond to the company's threats, but he continued to believe that no single trading company could pose any threat to his power. They could not realize that the English company was not just a company of merchants but a representative of the most aggressive and expansionist colony of the time.

Their ignorance about the rest of the world and lack of contact with it proved costly for them, otherwise they would surely have become aware of the destructive activities of Western business companies in Africa, South-East Asia, and Latin America.

 The Nawabs of Bengal did not pay attention to building a powerful army and they had to pay a heavy price for it.  For example, Murshid Quli Khan's army had only 2,000 cavalry and 4,000 infantry.  

Ali Wardi Khan was fed up with the repeated attacks of the Marathas and ultimately he had to cede a large part of Orissa to them.  When the English East India Company declared war against Siraj-ud-Daula, the successor of Ali Vardi Khan, in 1756-57, the lack of a powerful army also contributed significantly to the victory of the foreign company.  

The Nawab of Bengal also failed to stop the increasing corruption among the officers.  Even the judicial officers Qazi and Mufti did not hesitate in taking bribe.  Foreign companies took full advantage of this weakness and undermined government laws, rules and policies.

Awadh : 

The founder of the autonomous state of Awadh was Saadat Khan Burhan-ul-Mulk. He was made Subahdar of Awadh in 1772. He was an extremely fearless, hardworking, determined and fast man. At the time of his appointment, many rebellious zamindars raised their heads everywhere in the province. 

They refused to pay tribute, formed their own private services, built forts, and disobeyed the imperial government. For years, Saadat Khan had to fight them. He abolished obscurantism and disciplined the large landowners.

He thus increased the financial resources of his government. He courted other chieftains and zamindars by extending various favours. But he did not remove most of the defeated zamindars and they were also restored to their positions after accepting submission and agreeing to pay the dues (land revenue) regularly.

Saadat Khan also made a new revenue settlement in 1723.  It is said that he improved the condition of the farmers by imposing fair land rent and protecting them from the atrocities of big landlords.

 Like the Nawabs of Bengal, he did not discriminate between Hindus and Muslims.  Many of his generals and high officers were Hindus.  He suppressed stubborn landlords, chieftains and feudal lords without caring about their religion.  His soldiers were paid well.  They were equipped with weapons and well trained.  His administration was efficient.  He also continued the Jagirdari system.

Before his death in 1739, he had become virtually independent and made the province his hereditary property. He was replaced by his nephew Safdar Jung. At the same time, he was also made the vizier of the empire in 1748. In addition, he was also given the province of Allahabad. Safdar Jung did not allow the people of Awadh and Allahabad to face any unrest until his death in 1754.

He suppressed the rebellious zamindars and got others on his side. He befriended the Maratha chieftains to prevent their intrusion into his domain. He also managed to gain the allegiance of Rajput chieftains and sheikhzadas. He waged wars against the Ruhelas and the Bangash Pathans.

In the war of 1750-51 against the Bangash Nawabs, he received the military help of the Marathas and the support of the Jats.  For this he had to pay Rs 25,000 per day to the Marathas and Rs 15,000 per day to the Jats.  

He later signed an agreement with the Peshwa according to which the Peshwa promised to help the Mughal Empire against Ahmed Shah Abdali and protect it from internal rebels like the Indian Pathans and Rajput kings.  In return, Peshwa was going to be given 50 lakh rupees and Chauth of Punjab, Sindh and many districts of North India.

 Apart from this, Peshwa was to be made the governor of Ajmer and Agra.  But Peshwa met Safdar Jang's enemies in Delhi who forced him to conquer Awadh and

 He promised to make him the Subedar of Allahabad, hence the agreement was broken.  Safdar Jung made proper arrangements for justice.  He also adopted a policy of fairness between Hindus and Muslims in giving jobs.  A Hindu Maharaja Nawab Rai held the highest position in his government.  As a result of the long continuous peace under the government of the Nawabs and the economic prosperity of the feudal lords, a distinct Lucknowi culture evolved over time around the Awadh court.

Lucknow was an important city of Awadh for a long time. After 1775, it became the residence of the Nawabs of Awadh. It immediately rivalled Delhi in terms of patronage of art and literature. It also developed into an important centre of handicrafts. The influence of both crafts and culture reached the towns under the patronage of local chieftains and zamindars. Safdar Jung maintained a very high personal morality.

He remained faithful to his only wife throughout his life. In fact, the founders of the three autonomous princely states of Hyderabad, Bengal and Oudh were men of high personal morals, Nizam-ul-Mulk Murshid Quli Khan and Ali Verdi respectively. Almost all of them led a restrained and simple life. This belies the assumption that the leading magnates of the eighteenth century lived a life of extravagance and luxury. Only in his public and political dealings did he resort to fraud, conspiracy, and treachery.

Tags: India in 18th Century, 18th century Indian history, Rise of regional states in 18th century, Successor states during 18th century, 18th Century india upsc, Rise of regional powers during 18th century upsc.

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