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Mughal Empire

Dynastic empire once extending over large parts of the Indian subcontinent

Top 10 Mughal Empire related articles

Mughal Empire

  • 1526–1540
  • 1555–1857
The empire at its greatest extent, in c. 1700
StatusEmpire
Capital
Common languages
Religion
Government
Emperor[a] 
• 1526–1530
Babur (first)
• 1837–1857
Bahadur Shah II (last)
Historical eraEarly modern
21 April 1526
• Empire interrupted by Sur Empire
1540–1555
1680–1707
• Death of Aurangzeb
3 March 1707
24 February 1739
1746–1763
1757
1759–1765
21 September 1857
Area
1690[5][6]4,000,000 km2 (1,500,000 sq mi)
Population
• 1700[7]
158,400,000
CurrencyRupee, Taka, dam[8]:73–74
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Delhi Sultanate
Bengal Sultanate
Rajput states
Chero dynasty
Deccan sultanates
Bengal Subah
Durrani Empire
Maratha Empire
Sikh Empire
Company rule in India
British Raj
Today part of

The Mughal Empire, Mogul or Moghul Empire, was an early modern empire in South Asia.[9] For some two centuries, the empire stretched from the outer fringes of the Indus basin in the west, northern Afghanistan in the northwest, and Kashmir in the north, to the highlands of present-day Assam and Bangladesh in the east, and the uplands of the Deccan plateau in south India.[10]

The Mughal empire is conventionally said to have been founded in 1526 by Babur, a warrior chieftain from what today is Uzbekistan, who employed aid from the neighboring Safavid- and Ottoman empires,[11] to defeat the Sultan of Delhi, Ibrahim Lodhi, in the First Battle of Panipat, and to sweep down the plains of Upper India. The Mughal imperial structure, however, is sometimes dated to 1600, to the rule of Babur's grandson, Akbar, [12] This imperial structure lasted until 1720, until shortly after the death of the last major emperor, Aurengzeb,[13][14] during whose reign the empire also achieved its maximum geographical extent. Reduced subsequently, especially during the East India Company rule in India, to the region in and around Old Delhi, the empire was formally dissolved by the British Raj after the Indian Rebellion of 1857.

Although the Mughal empire was created and sustained by military warfare,[15] [16][17] it did not vigorously suppress the cultures and peoples it came to rule, but balanced them by establishing new administrative practices,[18][19] and incorporating diverse ruling elites, leading to more efficient, centralised, and standarized rule.[20] The base of the empire's collective wealth was agricultural taxes, instituted by the third Mughal emperor, Akbar.[21][22] These taxes, which amounted to well over half the output of a peasant cultivator,[23] were paid in the well-regulated silver currency,[24] and caused peasants and artisans to enter larger markets.[25]

The relative peace maintained by the empire during much of the 17th century was a factor in India's economic expansion.[26] Burgeoning European presence in the Indian ocean, and its increasing demand for Indian raw- and finished products, created still greater wealth in the Mughal courts.[27] There was more conspicuous consumption among the Mughal elite,[28] resulting in greater patronage of painting, literary forms, textiles, and architecture, especially during the reign of Shah Jahan.[29] Among the Mughal UNESCO World Heritage Sites in South Asia are: Agra Fort, Fatehpur Sikri, Red Fort, Humayun's Tomb, Lahore Fort and the Taj Mahal, which is described as, "The jewel of Muslim art in India, and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world's heritage."[30]

Mughal Empire Intro articles: 24

Name

Contemporaries referred to the empire founded by Babur as the Timurid empire,[31] which reflected the heritage of his dynasty, and this was the term preferred by the Mughals themselves.[32]

The Mughal designation for their own dynasty was Gurkani (Persian: گورکانیان‎, Gūrkāniyān, meaning "sons-in-law").[33] The use of "Mughal" derived from the Arabic and Persian corruption of "Mongol", and it emphasised the Mongol origins of the Timurid dynasty.[34] The term gained currency during the 19th century, but remains disputed by Indologists.[35] Similar terms had been used to refer to the empire, including "Mogul" and "Moghul".[36][37] Nevertheless, Babur's ancestors were sharply distinguished from the classical Mongols insofar as they were oriented towards Persian rather than Turco-Mongol culture.[38]

Another name for the empire was Hindustan, which was documented in the Ain-i-Akbari, and which has been described as the closest to an official name for the empire.[39] In the west, the term "Mughal" was used for the emperor, and by extension, the empire as a whole.[40]

Mughal Empire Name articles: 9

History

Babur and Humayun (1526–1556)

Babur, the founder of the Mughal Empire, and his warriors visiting a Hindu temple in the Indian subcontinent.

The Mughal Empire was founded by Babur (reigned 1526–1530), a Central Asian ruler who was descended from the Turco-Mongol conqueror Timur (the founder of the Timurid Empire) on his father's side, and from Genghis Khan on his mother's side.[41] Ousted from his ancestral domains in Central Asia, Babur turned to India to satisfy his ambitions.[42] He established himself in Kabul and then pushed steadily southward into India from Afghanistan through the Khyber Pass.[41] Babur's forces occupied much of northern India after his victory at Panipat in 1526.[41] The preoccupation with wars and military campaigns, however, did not allow the new emperor to consolidate the gains he had made in India.[43]

The instability of the empire became evident under his son, Humayun (reigned 1530–1556), who was forced into exile in Persia by rebels. The Sur Empire (1540–1555), founded by Sher Shah Suri (reigned 1540–1545), briefly interrupted Mughal rule.[41] Humayun's exile in Persia established diplomatic ties between the Safavid and Mughal Courts, and led to increasing Persian cultural influence in the Mughal Empire. Humayun's triumphant return from Persia in 1555 restored Mughal rule, but he died in an accident the next year.[41]

Akbar to Aurangzeb (1556–1707)

Akbar (reigned 1556–1605) was born Jalal-ud-din Muhammad[44] in the Rajput Umarkot Fort,[45] to Humayun and his wife Hamida Banu Begum, a Persian princess.[46] Akbar succeeded to the throne under a regent, Bairam Khan, who helped consolidate the Mughal Empire in India. Through warfare and diplomacy, Akbar was able to extend the empire in all directions and controlled almost the entire Indian subcontinent north of the Godavari River. He created a new ruling elite loyal to him, implemented a modern administration, and encouraged cultural developments. He increased trade with European trading companies.[41] India developed a strong and stable economy, leading to commercial expansion and economic development. Akbar allowed freedom of religion at his court, and attempted to resolve socio-political and cultural differences in his empire by establishing a new religion, Din-i-Ilahi, with strong characteristics of a ruler cult.[41] He left his son an internally stable state, which was in the midst of its golden age, but before long signs of political weakness would emerge.[41]

Jahangir (born Salim,[47] reigned 1605–1627) was born to Akbar and his wife Mariam-uz-Zamani, an Indian Rajput princess.[48] He "was addicted to opium, neglected the affairs of the state, and came under the influence of rival court cliques".[41] In contrast to Akbar, Jahangir came into conflict with religious leaders, notably the Sikh guru Arjan, whose execution was the first of many conflicts between the Mughal empire and the Sikh community.[49][50][51]

Shah Jahan (reigned 1628–1658) was born to Jahangir and his wife Jagat Gosaini, a Rajput princess.[47] During the reign of Shah Jahan, the splendour of the Mughal court reached its peak, as exemplified by the Taj Mahal.The cost of maintaining the court, however, began to exceed the revenue coming in.[41] His reign was called as "The Golden Age of Mughal Architecture".

Akbar holds a religious assembly of different faiths in the Ibadat Khana in Fatehpur Sikri.

Shah Jahan's eldest son, the liberal Dara Shikoh, became regent in 1658, as a result of his father's illness. Dara championed a syncretistic Hindu-Muslim culture. With the support of the Islamic orthodoxy, however, a younger son of Shah Jahan, Aurangzeb (reigned 1658–1707), seized the throne. Aurangzeb defeated Dara in 1659 and had him executed.[41] Although Shah Jahan fully recovered from his illness, Aurangzeb declared him incompetent to rule, and kept Shah Jahan imprisoned until his death in 1666.[52]:68 During Aurangzeb's reign, the empire gained political strength once more and became the world's most powerful economy. Aurangzeb oversaw an increase in the Islamicization of the Mughal state. He encouraged conversion to Islam, reinstated the jizya on non-Muslims, and compiled the Fatwa Alamgiri, a collection of Islamic law. Aurangzeb also executed the Sikh guru Tegh Bahadur, leading to the militarization of the Sikh community.[53][50][51] He expanded the empire to include almost the whole of South Asia,[52]:1 but at his death in 1707, "many parts of the empire were in open revolt".[41] Aurangzeb is considered India's most controversial king,[52] with some historians arguing his religious conservatism and intolerance undermined the stability of Mughal society,[41] while other historians question this, noting that he built Hindu temples,[54] employed significantly more Hindus in his imperial bureaucracy than his predecessors did, opposed bigotry against Hindus and Shia Muslims,[52]:50 and married Hindu Rajput princess Nawab Bai.[47]

Decline (1707–1857)

Emperor Shah Jahan and Prince Aurangzeb in Mughal Court, 1650

Aurangzeb's son, Bahadur Shah I, repealed the religious policies of his father and attempted to reform the administration. "However, after his death in 1712, the Mughal dynasty sank into chaos and violent feuds. In 1719 alone, four emperors successively ascended the throne".[41]

During the reign of Muhammad Shah (reigned 1719–1748), the empire began to break up, and vast tracts of central India passed from Mughal to Maratha hands. The far-off Indian campaign of Nadir Shah, who had previously reestablished Iranian suzerainty over most of West Asia, the Caucasus, and Central Asia, culminated with the Sack of Delhi and shattered the remnants of Mughal power and prestige. Many of the empire's elites now sought to control their own affairs, and broke away to form independent kingdoms. But, according to Sugata Bose and Ayesha Jalal, the Mughal Emperor continued to be the highest manifestation of sovereignty. Not only the Muslim gentry, but the Maratha, Hindu, and Sikh leaders took part in ceremonial acknowledgments of the emperor as the sovereign of India.[55]

Meanwhile, some regional polities within the increasingly fragmented Mughal Empire, involved themselves and the state in global conflicts, leading only to defeat and loss of territory during the Carnatic Wars and the Bengal War.

The Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II (1759–1806) made futile attempts to reverse the Mughal decline but ultimately had to seek the protection of the Emir of Afghanistan, Ahmed Shah Abdali, which led to the Third Battle of Panipat between the Maratha Empire and the Afghans (led by Abdali) in 1761. In 1771, the Marathas recaptured Delhi from Afghan control and in 1784 they officially became the protectors of the emperor in Delhi,[56] a state of affairs that continued until the Second Anglo-Maratha War. Thereafter, the British East India Company became the protectors of the Mughal dynasty in Delhi.[55] The British East India Company took control of the former Mughal province of Bengal-Bihar in 1793 after it abolished local rule (Nizamat) that lasted until 1858, marking the beginning of British colonial era over the Indian Subcontinent. By 1857 a considerable part of former Mughal India was under the East India Company's control. After a crushing defeat in the war of 1857–1858 which he nominally led, the last Mughal, Bahadur Shah Zafar, was deposed by the British East India Company and exiled in 1858. Through the Government of India Act 1858 the British Crown assumed direct control of East India Company-held territories in India in the form of the new British Raj. In 1876 the British Queen Victoria assumed the title of Empress of India.

Causes of decline

Historians have offered numerous explanations for the rapid collapse of the Mughal Empire between 1707 and 1720, after a century of growth and prosperity. In fiscal terms, the throne lost the revenues needed to pay its chief officers, the emirs (nobles) and their entourages. The emperor lost authority, as the widely scattered imperial officers lost confidence in the central authorities, and made their own deals with local men of influence. The imperial army bogged down in long, futile wars against the more aggressive Marathas, lost its fighting spirit. Finally came a series of violent political feuds over control of the throne. After the execution of Emperor Farrukhsiyar in 1719, local Mughal successor states took power in region after region.[57]

Contemporary chroniclers bewailed the decay they witnessed, a theme picked up by the first British historians who wanted to underscore the need for a British-led rejuvenation.[58]

Modern views on the decline

Since the 1970s historians have taken multiple approaches to the decline, with little consensus on which factor was dominant. The psychological interpretations emphasise depravity in high places, excessive luxury, and increasingly narrow views that left the rulers unprepared for an external challenge. A Marxist school (led by Irfan Habib and based at Aligarh Muslim University) emphasises excessive exploitation of the peasantry by the rich, which stripped away the will and the means to support the regime.[59] Karen Leonard has focused on the failure of the regime to work with Hindu bankers, whose financial support was increasingly needed; the bankers then helped the Maratha and the British.[60] In a religious interpretation, some scholars argue that the Hindu powers revolted against the rule of a Muslim dynasty.[61] Finally, other scholars argue that the very prosperity of the Empire inspired the provinces to achieve a high degree of independence, thus weakening the imperial court.[62]

Jeffrey G. Williamson has argued that the Indian economy went through deindustrialization in the latter half of the 18th century as an indirect outcome of the collapse of the Mughal Empire, with British rule later causing further deindustrialization.[63] According to Williamson, the decline of the Mughal Empire led to a decline in agricultural productivity, which drove up food prices, then nominal wages, and then textile prices, which led to India losing a share of the world textile market to Britain even before it had superior factory technology.[64] Indian textiles, however, still maintained a competitive advantage over British textiles up until the 19th century.[65]

Mughal Empire History articles: 62

Administrative divisions

Subah (Urdu: صوبہ‎) was the term for a province in the Mughal Empire. The word is derived from Arabic. The governor of a Subah was known as a subahdar (sometimes also referred to as a "Subah"[66]), which later became subedar to refer to an officer in the Indian Army. The subahs were established by padshah (emperor) Akbar during his administrative reforms of 1572–1580; initially, they numbered 12, but his conquests expanded the number of subahs to 15 by the end of his reign. Subahs were divided into Sarkars, or districts. Sarkars were further divided into Parganas or Mahals. His successors, most notably Aurangzeb, expanded the number of subahs further through their conquests. As the empire began to dissolve in the early 18th century, many subahs became effectively independent, or were conquered by the Marathas or the British.

The original twelve subahs created as a result of administrative reform by Akbar:

Mughal Empire Administrative divisions articles: 22

Economy

The Indian economy was large and prosperous under the Mughal Empire.[67] During the Mughal era, the gross domestic product (GDP) of India in 1600 was estimated at about 22% of the world economy, the second largest in the world, behind only Ming China but larger than Europe. By 1700, the GDP of Mughal India had risen to 24% of the world economy, the largest in the world, larger than both Qing China and Western Europe.[68] Mughal empire was producing about 25% of the world's industrial output up until the 18th century.[69] India's GDP growth increased under the Mughal Empire, with India's GDP having a faster growth rate during the Mughal era than in the 1,500 years prior to the Mughal era.[68] Mughal India's economy has been described as a form of proto-industrialization, like that of 18th-century Western Europe prior to the Industrial Revolution.[70]

The Mughals were responsible for building an extensive road system, creating a uniform currency, and the unification of the country.[8]:185–204 The empire had an extensive road network, which was vital to the economic infrastructure, built by a public works department set up by the Mughals which designed, constructed and maintained roads linking towns and cities across the empire, making trade easier to conduct.[67]

The main base of the empire's collective wealth was agricultural taxes, instituted by the third Mughal emperor, Akbar.[21][22] These taxes, which amounted to well over half the output of a peasant cultivator,[23] were paid in the well-regulated silver currency,[24] and caused peasants and artisans to enter larger markets.[25]

Coinage

The Mughals adopted and standardized the rupee (rupiya, or silver) and dam (copper) currencies introduced by Sur Emperor Sher Shah Suri during his brief rule.[71] The currency was initially 48 dams to a single rupee in the beginning of Akbar's reign, before it later became 38 dams to a rupee in the 1580s, with the dam's value rising further in the 17th century as a result of new industrial uses for copper, such as in bronze cannons and brass utensils. The dam was initially the most common coin in Akbar's time, before being replaced by the rupee as the most common coin in succeeding reigns.[8] The dam's value was later worth 30 to a rupee towards the end of Jahangir's reign, and then 16 to a rupee by the 1660s.[72] The Mughals minted coins with high purity, never dropping below 96%, and without debasement until the 1720s.[73]

Despite India having its own stocks of gold and silver, the Mughals produced minimal gold of their own, but mostly minted coins from imported bullion, as a result of the empire's strong export-driven economy, with global demand for Indian agricultural and industrial products drawing a steady stream of precious metals into India.[8] Around 80% of Mughal India's imports were bullion, mostly silver,[74] with major sources of imported bullion including the New World and Japan,[73] which in turn imported large quantities of textiles and silk from the Bengal Subah province.[8]

Labour

The historian Shireen Moosvi estimates that in terms of contributions to the Mughal economy, in the late 16th century, the primary sector contributed 52%, the secondary sector 18% and the tertiary sector 29%; the secondary sector contributed a higher percentage than in early 20th-century British India, where the secondary sector only contributed 11% to the economy.[75] In terms of urban-rural divide, 18% of Mughal India's labour force were urban and 82% were rural, contributing 52% and 48% to the economy, respectively.[76]

According to Stephen Broadberry and Bishnupriya Gupta, grain wages in India were comparable to England in the 16th and 17th centuries, but diverged in the 18th century when they fell to 20-40% of England's wages.[77][78] This, however, is disputed by Parthasarathi and Sivramkrishna. Parthasarathi cites his estimates that grain wages for weaving and spinning in mid-18 century Bengal and South India was comparable to Britain.[79] Similarly, Sivramkrishna analyzed agricultural surveys conducted in Mysore by Francis Buchanan during 1800-1801, arrived at estimates using a "subsistence basket" that aggregated millet income could be almost five times subsistence level, while corresponding rice income was three times that much.[80] That could be comparable to advance part of Europe.[81] Due to the scarcity of data, however, more research is needed before drawing any conclusion.[82][83]

According to Moosvi, Mughal India had a per-capita income, in terms of wheat, 1.24% higher in the late 16th century than British India did in the early 20th century.[84] This income, however, would have to be revised downwards if manufactured goods, like clothing, would be considered. Compared to food per-capita, expenditure on clothing was much smaller though, so relative income between 1595-1596 should be comparable to 1901-1910.[85] However, in a system where wealth was hoarded by elites, wages were depressed for manual labour.[86] In Mughal India, there was a generally tolerant attitude towards manual labourers, with some religious cults in northern India proudly asserting a high status for manual labour. While slavery also existed, it was limited largely to household servants.[86]

Agriculture

Indian agricultural production increased under the Mughal Empire.[67] A variety of crops were grown, including food crops such as wheat, rice, and barley, and non-food cash crops such as cotton, indigo and opium. By the mid-17th century, Indian cultivators begun to extensively grow two new crops from the Americas, maize and tobacco.[67]

The Mughal administration emphasized agrarian reform, which began under the non-Mughal emperor Sher Shah Suri, the work of which Akbar adopted and furthered with more reforms. The civil administration was organized in a hierarchical manner on the basis of merit, with promotions based on performance.[3] The Mughal government funded the building of irrigation systems across the empire, which produced much higher crop yields and increased the net revenue base, leading to increased agricultural production.[67]

A major Mughal reform introduced by Akbar was a new land revenue system called zabt. He replaced the tribute system, previously common in India and used by Tokugawa Japan at the time, with a monetary tax system based on a uniform currency.[73] The revenue system was biased in favour of higher value cash crops such as cotton, indigo, sugar cane, tree-crops, and opium, providing state incentives to grow cash crops, in addition to rising market demand.[8] Under the zabt system, the Mughals also conducted extensive cadastral surveying to assess the area of land under plow cultivation, with the Mughal state encouraging greater land cultivation by offering tax-free periods to those who brought new land under cultivation.[73] The expansion of agriculture and cultivation continued under later Mughal emperors including Aurangzeb, whose 1665 firman edict stated: "the entire elevated attention and desires of the Emperor are devoted to the increase in the population and cultivation of the Empire and the welfare of the whole peasantry and the entire people."[87]

Mughal agriculture was in some ways advanced compared to European agriculture at the time, exemplified by the common use of the seed drill among Indian peasants before its adoption in Europe.[88] While the average peasant across the world was only skilled in growing very few crops, the average Indian peasant was skilled in growing a wide variety of food and non-food crops, increasing their productivity.[89] Indian peasants were also quick to adapt to profitable new crops, such as maize and tobacco from the New World being rapidly adopted and widely cultivated across Mughal India between 1600 and 1650. Bengali farmers rapidly learned techniques of mulberry cultivation and sericulture, establishing Bengal Subah as a major silk-producing region of the world.[8] Sugar mills appeared in India shortly before the Mughal era. Evidence for the use of a draw bar for sugar-milling appears at Delhi in 1540, but may also date back earlier, and was mainly used in the northern Indian subcontinent. Geared sugar rolling mills first appeared in Mughal India, using the principle of rollers as well as worm gearing, by the 17th century.[90]

According to economic historian Immanuel Wallerstein, citing evidence from Irfan Habib, Percival Spear, and Ashok Desai, per-capita agricultural output and standards of consumption in 17th-century Mughal India were probably higher than in 17th-century Europe and certainly higher than early 20th-century British India.[91] The increased agricultural productivity led to lower food prices. In turn, this benefited the Indian textile industry. Compared to Britain, the price of grain was about one-half in South India and one-third in Bengal, in terms of silver coinage. This resulted in lower silver coin prices for Indian textiles, giving them a price advantage in global markets.[92]

Industrial manufacturing

Up until 1750, India produced about 25% of the world's industrial output.[63] Manufactured goods and cash crops from the Mughal Empire were sold throughout the world. Key industries included textiles, shipbuilding, and steel. Processed products included cotton textiles, yarns, thread, silk, jute products, metalware, and foods such as sugar, oils and butter.[67] The growth of manufacturing industries in the Indian subcontinent during the Mughal era in the 17th–18th centuries has been referred to as a form of proto-industrialization, similar to 18th-century Western Europe prior to the Industrial Revolution.[70]

In early modern Europe, there was significant demand for products from Mughal India, particularly cotton textiles, as well as goods such as spices, peppers, indigo, silks, and saltpeter (for use in munitions).[67] European fashion, for example, became increasingly dependent on Mughal Indian textiles and silks. From the late 17th century to the early 18th century, Mughal India accounted for 95% of British imports from Asia, and the Bengal Subah province alone accounted for 40% of Dutch imports from Asia.[93] In contrast, there was very little demand for European goods in Mughal India, which was largely self-sufficient, thus Europeans had very little to offer, except for some woolens, unprocessed metals and a few luxury items. The trade imbalance caused Europeans to export large quantities of gold and silver to Mughal India in order to pay for South Asian imports.[67] Indian goods, especially those from Bengal, were also exported in large quantities to other Asian markets, such as Indonesia and Japan.[8]

Textile industry

Mughal princes wearing muslin robes in 1665 CE.

The largest manufacturing industry in the Mughal Empire was textile manufacturing, particularly cotton textile manufacturing, which included the production of piece goods, calicos, and muslins, available unbleached and in a variety of colours. The cotton textile industry was responsible for a large part of the empire's international trade.[67] India had a 25% share of the global textile trade in the early 18th century.[94] Indian cotton textiles were the most important manufactured goods in world trade in the 18th century, consumed across the world from the Americas to Japan.[95] By the early 18th century, Mughal Indian textiles were clothing people across the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, Europe, the Americas, Africa, and the Middle East.[64] The most important center of cotton production was the Bengal province, particularly around its capital city of Dhaka.[96]

Bengal accounted for more than 50% of textiles and around 80% of silks imported by the Dutch from Asia,[93] Bengali silk and cotton textiles were exported in large quantities to Europe, Indonesia, and Japan,[8]:202 and Bengali muslin textiles from Dhaka were sold in Central Asia, where they were known as "daka" textiles.[96] Indian textiles dominated the Indian Ocean trade for centuries, were sold in the Atlantic Ocean trade, and had a 38% share of the West African trade in the early 18th century, while Indian calicos were a major force in Europe, and Indian textiles accounted for 20% of total English trade with Southern Europe in the early 18th century.[63]

The worm gear roller cotton gin, which was invented in India during the early Delhi Sultanate era of the 13th–14th centuries, came into use in the Mughal Empire sometime around the 16th century,[90] and is still used in India through to the present day.[97] Another innovation, the incorporation of the crank handle in the cotton gin, first appeared in India sometime during the late Delhi Sultanate or the early Mughal Empire.[98] The production of cotton, which may have largely been spun in the villages and then taken to towns in the form of yarn to be woven into cloth textiles, was advanced by the diffusion of the spinning wheel across India shortly before the Mughal era, lowering the costs of yarn and helping to increase demand for cotton. The diffusion of the spinning wheel, and the incorporation of the worm gear and crank handle into the roller cotton gin led to greatly expanded Indian cotton textile production during the Mughal era.[99]

Once, the Mughal emperor Akbar asked his courtiers, which was the most beautiful flower. Some said rose, from whose petals were distilled the precious itr, others, the lotus, glory of every Indian village. But Birbal said, “The cotton boll”. There was a scornful laughter and Akbar asked for an explanation. Birbal said, “Your Majesty, from the cotton boll comes the fine fabric prized by merchants across the seas that has made your empire famous throughout the world. The perfume of your fame far exceeds the scent of roses and jasmine. That is why I say the cotton boll is the most beautiful flower.[100]

Shipbuilding industry

Mughal India had a large shipbuilding industry, which was also largely centered in the Bengal province. Economic historian Indrajit Ray estimates shipbuilding output of Bengal during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries at 223,250 tons annually, compared with 23,061 tons produced in nineteen colonies in North America from 1769 to 1771.[101] He also assesses ship repairing as very advanced in Bengal.[101]

Indian shipbuilding, particularly in Bengal, was advanced compared to European shipbuilding at the time, with Indians selling ships to European firms. An important innovation in shipbuilding was the introduction of a flushed deck design in Bengal rice ships, resulting in hulls that were stronger and less prone to leak than the structurally weak hulls of traditional European ships built with a stepped deck design. The British East India Company later duplicated the flushed deck and hull designs of Bengal rice ships in the 1760s, leading to significant improvements in seaworthiness and navigation for European ships during the Industrial Revolution.[102]

Bengal Subah

Ruins of the Great Caravanserai in Dhaka.

The Bengal Subah province was especially prosperous from the time of its takeover by the Mughals in 1590 until the British East India Company seized control in 1757.[103] It was the Mughal Empire's wealthiest province.[104] Domestically, much of India depended on Bengali products such as rice, silks and cotton textiles. Overseas, Europeans depended on Bengali products such as cotton textiles, silks, and opium; Bengal accounted for 40% of Dutch imports from Asia, for example, including more than 50% of textiles and around 80% of silks.[93] From Bengal, saltpeter was also shipped to Europe, opium was sold in Indonesia, raw silk was exported to Japan and the Netherlands, and cotton and silk textiles were exported to Europe, Indonesia and Japan.[8] Akbar played a key role in establishing Bengal as a leading economic centre, as he began transforming many of the jungles there into farms. As soon as he conquered the region, he brought tools and men to clear jungles in order to expand cultivation and brought Sufis to open the jungles to farming.[87] Bengal was later described as the Paradise of Nations by Mughal emperors.[105] The Mughals introduced agrarian reforms, including the modern Bengali calendar.[106] The calendar played a vital role in developing and organising harvests, tax collection and Bengali culture in general, including the New Year and Autumn festivals. The province was a leading producer of grains, salt, fruits, liquors and wines, precious metals and ornaments.[107] Its handloom industry flourished under royal warrants, making the region a hub of the worldwide muslin trade, which peaked in the 17th and 18th centuries. The provincial capital Dhaka became the commercial capital of the empire. The Mughals expanded cultivated land in the Bengal delta under the leadership of Sufis, which consolidated the foundation of Bengali Muslim society.[108]

After 150 years of rule by Mughal viceroys, Bengal gained semi-independence as a dominion under the Nawab of Bengal in 1717. The Nawabs permitted European companies to set up trading posts across the region, including firms from Britain, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Portugal and Austria. An Armenian community dominated banking and shipping in major cities and towns. The Europeans regarded Bengal as the richest place for trade.[107] By the late 18th century, the British displaced the Mughal ruling class in Bengal.

Mughal Empire Economy articles: 88