Mughal Rulers after Aurangzeb
Bahadur Shah (1707-1712)
Mu’azzam ascended throne in 1707 after having killed his brothers in the battle field, under the title of Bahadur Shah (also known as Shah Alam-I). A person of mild temper, learned and dignified, was too old.
He could not prevent the decline of the empire, due to his sudden death in 1712.
Jahandar Shah (1712 – 1713)
Bahadur Shah’s death followed a fresh war of succession among his four sons, Jahandar Shah, Azim-us-Shah, Jahan Shah and Rafi-is-Shah.
The last three were killed in the course of war and Jahandar Shah managed to ascend the throne. Fate did not allow him to rule, and Azim-us-Shah’s son Farrukhsiyar took his life and ascended the throne.
Farrukhsiyar (1713 – 1719)
Farrukhsiyar was feeble, cowardly and contemptible. He owed his elevation to the throne to two Sayyid brothers, who were the real power in the state.
His attempt to assert his own power made his reign an agitated and perplexing one, ending in another imperial tragedy: He was deposed, blinded and executed by his own Sayyid ministers.
Rafi-ud-Darajat, Rafi-ud-Dallah (1719)
The King-makers (the Sayyid Ministers), ‘Abdullah and Hussain Ali, raised to the throne two phantom kings, Rafi-Ud-Darajat & Rafi-ud-Dallah, sons of Rafi-us-Shan. But within few months the Sayyids who determined to rule through the Imperial puppets thought that a youth of eighteen named Roshan Akhtar, son of Jahan Shah could be a better docile agent of them.
Muhammed Shah (1719 – 1748)
Roshan Akhtar ascended the throne as Muhammad Shah in 1719. The new emperor did not prove to be a docile agent of the Sayyid brothers, who were soon killed by him. Young and handsome Muhammad Shah, with all the pleasures, was addicted to an inactive life.
Though destiny granted him a long reign, he let affairs drift in their own way, and soon province after province slipped out of imperial control. The Marathas established their power again, the Jats became independent near Agra, the Ruhelas founded Ruhelkand, and the Sikhs became active in Panjab. The invasion of Nadir Shah of Persia hit the empire with the greatest blow.
Ahmad Shah (1748 – 1754)
The next emperor, Ahmad Shah, son of Muhammad Shah, was unable to hold the forces that had grown so alarming.
The empire abruptly reduced to a small district round Delhi and the Emperor was deposed and blinded in 1754 by the wazir Ghazi-ud-din Imad-ul-Mulk, a grandson of the deceased Nizam-ul-mulk of the Deccan, who now played a role of the Kingmaker.
Alamgir II (1754 – 1759)
‘Aziz-ud-din’, the son of Jahandar Shah, was placed on the throne by the new king maker. He adopted the same title as the great Aurangzeb, and called himself ‘Alamgir-II’.
The new ruler was a kind of ‘prisoner on the throne’ in the hand of king maker. His attempt to free himself resulted in his ruin, the emperor was put to death by Ghazi-ud-din Imad-ul-mulk’s orders.
Shah Alam II (1759 – 1806)
The son and the successor of Alamgir-II, Shah Alam-II had to move as a wanderer from place to place because of the hostility of the ambitious and unscrupulous wazir.
Having been blinded by the Afghan chief Gulam Qadir, he was saved by the Maratha Sindhia. After 1803, the year in which the British took control of Delhi, the unlucky sovereign had to throw himself ultimately on the protection of the English and live as their pensioner till his death in AD 1806.
Akbar II (1806 – 1837) & Bahadur Shah II (1837 – 1858)
With British control, all that remained by way of an empire for the emperors Akbar-II and Bahadur Shah-II was their shabby residence in Delhi’s Red Fort, where they were allotted a home. A symbol of the durability of a once glorious empire, the Great Mughal was still officially recognized as the potentate.
The British maintained the authority of the puppet dynast to legitimize their presence. But in 1857 it backfired them, during the Sepoy rebellion.
In order to counter the British power, the sepoys proclaimed Bahadur Shah-II emperor of Hindustan. But after the mutiny at Meerut, the British emerged victorious, and Bahadur Shah-II was accused of disruption, treason and rebellion. He was condemned to exile in Burma. The descendants were executed, and the glorious Mughal empire was swept away once and for all.