Mughal Empire

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Mughal Empire
The empire at its greatest extent in c. 1700 under Aurangzeb
Common languages
State religion:
GovernmentUnitary absolute monarchy under a federal structure
Bahadur Shah II
• 1526–1540 (first)
Mir Khalifa
• 1795–1818 (last)
Daulat Rao Sindhia
Grand Vizier 
• 1526–1540 (first)
Mir Khalifa
• 1775–1797 (last)
Historical era
Early modern
21 April 1526
• Empire interrupted by Sur Empire
5 November 1556
10 May 1738–1740
22 October 1764
21 September 1857
• Mughal emperor tried and exiled to Burma
1690[6][7]4,000,000 km2 (1,500,000 sq mi)
• 1595
• 1700
CurrencyRupee, Taka, dam[10]: 73–74 
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Delhi Sultanate
Sur Empire
Maratha Empire
Sikh Misl
Company rule in India
British Raj

The Mughal Empire was an early modern empire in South Asia.[11] For some two hundred years, the empire stretched from the outer fringes of the Indus River 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.[12]

The Mughal Empire is conventionally said to have been founded in 1526 by

Ibrahim Lodi, in the First Battle of Panipat, and to sweep down the plains of North India. The Mughal imperial structure, however, is sometimes dated to 1600, to the rule of Babur's grandson, Akbar.[14] This imperial structure lasted until 1720, until shortly after the death of the last major emperor, Aurangzeb,[15][16] during whose reign the empire also achieved its maximum geographical extent. Reduced subsequently to the region in and around Old Delhi by 1760, 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,[17][18][19] it did not vigorously suppress the cultures and peoples it came to rule; rather it equalized and placated them through new administrative practices,[20][21] and diverse ruling elites, leading to more efficient, centralised, and standardized rule.[22] The base of the empire's collective wealth was agricultural taxes, instituted by the third Mughal emperor, Akbar.[23][24] These taxes, which amounted to well over half the output of a peasant cultivator,[25] were paid in the well-regulated silver currency,[22] and caused peasants and artisans to enter larger markets.[26]

The relative peace maintained by the empire during much of the 17th century was a factor in India's economic expansion.

Shalamar Gardens, 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."[31]


The Mughal designation for their own dynasty was Gurkani (

Turco-Mongol culture. The Mughals themselves claimed ultimate descent from Mongol Empire founder Genghis Khan.[37]

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.[38] Mughal administrative records also refer to the empire as "Land of Hindustan" (Persian: بِلادِ هِندوستان, romanizedBilād-i-Hindustān), "Dominions of Hindustan" (Persian: وِلايَتِ هِندوستان, romanizedWilāyat-i-Hindustān),[39] or "Sultanate of Hindiyyah" (Arabic: سلطنة الهندية, Sultanate Al Hindiyyah) as observed in the epithet of emperor Aurangzeb.[40] The Mughals styled themselves as the "Badshah of Hindustan". In the west, the term "Mughal" was used for the emperor, and by extension, the empire as a whole.[41]


Babur and Humayun (1526–1556)

India in 1525 just before the onset of Mughal rule

The Mughal Empire was founded by Babur (reigned 1526–1530), a Central Asian ruler who was descended from the

Ibrahim Lodi in the First Battle of Panipat
in 1526. Before the battle, Babur sought divine favour by abjuring liquor, breaking the wine vessels and pouring the wine down a well. However, by this time Lodi's empire was already crumbling, and it was actually the Rajput Confederacy which was the strongest power of Northern India under the capable rule of Rana Sanga of Mewar. He defeated Babur in the Battle of Bayana.[45] However, in the decisive Battle of Khanwa which was fought near Agra, the Timurid forces of Babur defeated the Rajput army of Sanga. This battle was one of the most decisive and historic battles in Indian history, as it sealed the fate of Northern India for the next two centuries.

After the battle, the centre of Mughal power became Agra instead of Kabul. The preoccupation with wars and military campaigns, however, did not allow the new emperor to consolidate the gains he had made in India.[46] 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.[42] Humayun's exile in Persia established diplomatic ties between the Safavid and Mughal Courts, and led to increasing Persian cultural influence in the later restored Mughal Empire.[citation needed] Humayun's triumphant return from Persia in 1555 restored Mughal rule in some parts of India, but he died in an accident the next year.[42]

Akbar to Aurangzeb (1556–1707)

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

Din-i-Ilahi, with strong characteristics of a ruler cult.[42] 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.[42]

Sikh guru Arjan, whose execution was the first of many conflicts between the Mughal empire and the Sikh community.[55][56][57]

Group portrait of Mughal rulers, from Babur to Aurangzeb, with the Mughal ancestor Timur seated in the middle. On the left: Shah Jahan, Akbar and Babur, with Abu Sa'id of Samarkand and Timur's son, Miran Shah. On the right: Aurangzeb, Jahangir and Humayun, and two of Timur's other offspring Umar Shaykh and Muhammad Sultan. Created c. 1707–12

Shah Jahan (reigned 1628–1658) was born to Jahangir and his wife Jagat Gosain, a Rajput princess.[50] His reign ushered in the golden age of Mughal architecture.[58] 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.[42] His reign was called as "The Golden Age of Mughal Architecture". Shah Jahan extended the Mughal empire to the Deccan by ending the Nizam Shahi dynasty, and forced the Adil Shahis and Qutb Shahis to pay tribute.[59]

Shah Jahan's eldest son, the liberal

Peshawar by 1758.[66]

Aurangzeb is considered India's most controversial king,

Decline (1707–1857)

Sayyid Brothers
Shah Alam II on horseback

Aurangzeb's son,

Sayyid Brothers, became the de facto sovereigns of the empire.[69][70]

During the reign of

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.[citation needed] 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.[74]

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

Bengal War

The remnants of the empire in 1751

The Mughal Emperor

Empress of India

Portrait of Bahadur Shah II

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.[78]

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.[79]

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.[80] 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.[81] In a religious interpretation, some scholars argue that the Hindu powers revolted against the rule of a Muslim dynasty.[82] 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.[83]

British rule later causing further deindustrialization.[84] 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.[85] Indian textiles, however, still maintained a competitive advantage over British textiles up until the 19th century.[86]

Administration and state

India in 1605 and the end of emperor Akbar's reign; the map shows the different subahs, or provinces, of his administration

The Mughal Empire had a highly centralised, bureaucratic government, most of which was instituted during the rule of the third Mughal emperor Akbar.

mansabdari system. The ministry in charge of law/religious patronage was the responsibility of the sadr as-sudr, who appointed judges and managed charities and stipends. Another ministry was dedicated to the imperial household and public works.[76][87]

Administrative divisions

The empire was divided into Subah (provinces), each of which were headed by a provincial governor called a subadar. The structure of the central government was mirrored at the provincial level; each suba had its own bakhshi, sadr as-sudr, and finance minister that reported directly to the central government rather than the subahdar. Subas were subdivided into administrative units known as sarkars, which were further divided into groups of villages known as parganas. Mughal government in the pargana consisted of a Muslim judge and local tax collector.[76][87] Parganas were the basic administrative unit of the Mughal empire.[89]

Mughal administrative divisions were not static. Territories were often rearranged and reconstituted for better administrative control, and to extend cultivation. For example, a sarkar could turn into a subah, and parganas were often transferred between sarkars. The hierarchy of division was ambiguous sometimes, as a territory could fall under multiple overlapping jurisdictions. Administrative divisions were also vague in their geography – the Mughal state did not have enough resources or authority to undertake detailed land surveys, and hence the geographical limits of these divisions were not formalised and maps not created. The Mughals instead recorded detailed statistics about each division, in order to assess the territory's capacity for revenue, on the basis of simpler land surveys.[89]


An Open-Air Restaurant, Lahore, Edwin Lord Weeks

The Mughals had multiple imperial capitals, established over the course of their rule. These were the cities of

Deccan.[90] Kabul was the summer capital of Mughals from 1526 to 1681.[92]

The imperial camp, used for military expeditions and royal tours, also served as a kind of mobile, "de facto" administrative capital. From the time of Akbar, Mughal camps were huge in scale, accompanied by numerous personages associated with the royal court, as well as soldiers and labourers. All administration and governance was carried out within them. The Mughal Emperors spent a significant portion of their ruling period within these camps.[93]

After Aurangzeb, the Mughal capital definitively became the walled city of

Shahjahanabad (Old Delhi).[94]


Police in Delhi under Bahadur Shah II, 1842

The Mughal Empire's legal system was context-specific and evolved over the course of the empire's rule. Being a Muslim state, the empire employed fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) and therefore the fundamental institutions of Islamic law such as those of the qadi (judge), mufti (jurisconsult), and muhtasib (censor and market supervisor) were well-established in the Mughal Empire. However, the dispensation of justice also depended on other factors, such as administrative rules, local customs, and political convenience. This was due to Persianate influences on Mughal ideology, and the fact that the Mughal Empire governed a non-Muslim majority.[95]

Legal ideology

The Mughal Empire followed the Sunni

Hanafi system of jurisprudence. In its early years, the empire relied on Hanafi legal references inherited from its predecessor, the Delhi Sultanate. These included the al-Hidayah (the best guidance) and the Fatawa al-Tatarkhaniyya (religious decisions of the Emire Tatarkhan). During the Mughal Empire's peak, the Fatawa 'Alamgiri was commissioned by Emperor Aurangzeb. This compendium of Hanafi law sought to serve as a central reference for the Mughal state that dealt with the specifics of the South Asian context.[96]

The Mughal Empire also drew on Persianate notions of kingship. Particularly, this meant that the Mughal emperor was considered the supreme authority on legal affairs.[95]

Courts of law

Various kinds of courts existed in the Mughal empire. One such court was that of the qadi. The Mughal qadi was responsible for dispensing justice; this included settling disputes, judging people for crimes, and dealing with inheritances and orphans. The qadi also had additional importance with regards to documents, as the seal of the qadi was required to validate deeds and tax records. Qadis did not constitute a single position, but made up a hierarchy. For example, the most basic kind was the pargana (district) qadi. More prestigious positions were those of the qadi al-quddat (judge of judges) who accompanied the mobile imperial camp, and the qadi-yi lashkar (judge of the army).[95] Qadis were usually appointed by the emperor or the sadr-us-sudr (chief of charities).[95][97] The jurisdiction of the qadi was availed by Muslims and non-Muslims alike.[98]


jagirdar (local tax collector) was another kind of official approached, especially for high-stakes cases. Subjects of the Mughal Empire also took their grievances to the courts of superior officials who held more authority and punitive power than the local qadi. Such officials included the kotwal (local police), the faujdar (an officer controlling multiple districts and troops of soldiers), and the most powerful, the subahdar (provincial governor). In some cases, the emperor themself dispensed justice directly.[95] Jahangir was known to have installed a "chain of justice" in the Agra Fort that any aggrieved subject could shake to get the attention of the emperor and bypass the inefficacy of officials.[99]

Self-regulating tribunals operating at the community or village level were common, but sparse documentation of them exists. For example, it is unclear how

panchayats (village councils) operated in the Mughal era.[95]


Economy in the Indian Subcontinent during mughal era performed just as it did in ancient times, though now it would face the stress of extensive regional tensions.[100] The Mughal economy was large and prosperous.[101][102] India was producing 24.5% of the world's manufacturing output up until 1750.[103][102] India's economy has been described as a form of proto-industrialization, like that of 18th-century Western Europe prior to the Industrial Revolution.[104]

The Mughals were responsible for building an extensive road system, creating a uniform currency, and the unification of the country.[10]: 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.[101]

The main base of the empire's collective wealth was agricultural taxes, instituted by the third Mughal emperor, Akbar.[23][24] These taxes, which amounted to well over half the output of a peasant cultivator,[25] were paid in the well-regulated silver currency,[22] and caused peasants and artisans to enter larger markets.[26]


Coin of Aurangzeb, minted in Kabul, dated 1691/2

The Mughals adopted and standardised the rupee (rupiya, or silver) and dam (copper) currencies introduced by Sur Emperor Sher Shah Suri during his brief rule.[105] 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.[10] 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.[106] The Mughals minted coins with high purity, never dropping below 96%, and without debasement until the 1720s.[107]

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.[10] Around 80% of Mughal India's imports were bullion, mostly silver,[108] with major sources of imported bullion including the New World and Japan,[107] which in turn imported large quantities of textiles and silk from the Bengal Subah province.[10]


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.[109] 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.[110]

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.[111][112] 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.[113] 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.[114] That could be comparable to advance part of Europe.[115] Due to the scarcity of data, however, more research is needed before drawing any conclusion.[116][117]

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.[118] 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 and 1596 should be comparable to 1901–1910.[119] However, in a system where wealth was hoarded by elites, wages were depressed for manual labour.[120] 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.[120]


Indian agricultural production increased under the Mughal Empire.[101] 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.[101]

The Mughal administration emphasised 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 organised in a hierarchical manner on the basis of merit, with promotions based on performance.[121] 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.[101]

A major Mughal reform introduced by Akbar was a new land revenue system called zabt. He replaced the

plow cultivation, with the Mughal state encouraging greater land cultivation by offering tax-free periods to those who brought new land under cultivation.[107] 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."[122]

Mughal agriculture was in some ways advanced compared to European agriculture at the time, exemplified by the common use of the

worm gearing, by the 17th century.[125]

According to economic historian

British India.[126] 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.[127]

Industrial manufacturing

Up until 1750, India produced about 25% of the world's industrial output.

metalware, and foods such as sugar, oils and butter.[101] 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.[104]


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.[128] 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.[101] Indian goods, especially those from Bengal, were also exported in large quantities to other Asian markets, such as Indonesia and Japan.[10]

Textile industry

Miniature painting – Portrait of an Old Mughal Courtier Wearing Muslin
Muslim Lady Reclining or An Indian Girl with a Hookah, painted in Dacca, 18th century

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.[101] India had a 25% share of the global textile trade in the early 18th century.[129] 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.[130] 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.[85] The most important centre of cotton production was the Bengal province, particularly around its capital city of Dhaka.[131]

Bengal accounted for more than 50% of textiles and around 80% of silks imported by the Dutch from Asia,[128] Bengali silk and cotton textiles were exported in large quantities to Europe, Indonesia, and Japan,[10]: 202  and Bengali muslin textiles from Dhaka were sold in Central Asia, where they were known as "Dhaka textiles".[131] 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.[84]


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,[125] and is still used in India through to the present day.[132] 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.[133] 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.[134]

Once, the Mughal emperor Akbar asked his courtiers, which was the most beautiful flower. Some said rose, from whose petals were distilled the precious

ittar, 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.[135]

Shipbuilding industry

Mughal India had a large shipbuilding industry, which was also largely centred 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.[136] He also assesses ship repairing as very advanced in Bengal.[136]

An important innovation in shipbuilding was the introduction of a

seaworthiness and navigation for European ships during the Industrial Revolution.[137]

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.

C. A. Bayly wrote that it was probably the Mughal Empire's wealthiest province.[139] 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.[128] 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.[10]
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
New Year and Autumn festivals.[citation needed] The province was a leading producer of grains, salt, fruits, liquors and wines, precious metals and ornaments.[142]

After 150 years of rule by Mughal

Armenian community dominated banking and shipping in major cities and towns. The Europeans regarded Bengal as the richest place for trade.[142] By the late 18th century, the British
displaced the Mughal ruling class in Bengal.



India's population growth accelerated under the Mughal Empire, with an unprecedented economic and demographic upsurge which boosted the Indian population by 60%

Indian history prior to the Mughal era.[102][143] By the time of Aurangzeb's reign, there were a total of 455,698 villages in the Mughal Empire.[145]

The following table gives population estimates for the Mughal Empire, compared to the total population of India, including the regions of modern Pakistan and Bangladesh, and compared to the world population:

Year Mughal Empire
Total Indian
% of Indian
% of world
1500 100,000,000[143] 425,000,000[146]
1600 115,000,000[145] 130,000,000[143] 89 579,000,000[146] 20
1700 158,400,000[9] 160,000,000[143] 99 679,000,000[146] 23


According to Irfan Habib Cities and towns boomed under the Mughal Empire, which had a relatively high degree of urbanization for its time, with 15% of its population living in urban centres.

British India in the 19th century;[147] the level of urbanization in Europe did not reach 15% until the 19th century.[148]

Under Akbar's reign in 1600, the Mughal Empire's urban population was up to 17 million people, 15% of the empire's total population. This was larger than the entire urban population in Europe at the time, and even a century later in 1700, the urban population of England, Scotland and Wales did not exceed 13% of its total population,[145] while British India had an urban population that was under 13% of its total population in 1800 and 9% in 1881, a decline from the earlier Mughal era.[149] By 1700, Mughal India had an urban population of 23 million people, larger than British India's urban population of 22.3 million in 1871.[150]

Those estimates were criticised by Tim Dyson, who consider them exaggerations. According to Dyson urbanization of Mughal empire was less than 9%.[151]

The historian

Delhi Subah) with over 600,000 people.[154]

Cities acted as markets for the sale of goods, and provided homes for a variety of merchants, traders, shopkeepers, artisans, moneylenders, weavers, craftspeople, officials, and religious figures.[101] However, a number of cities were military and political centres, rather than manufacturing or commerce centres.[155]


Ghulam Hamdani Mushafi, the poet first believed to have coined the name "Urdu" around 1780 AD for a language that went by a multiplicity of names before his time.[156]

The Mughal Empire was definitive in the early-modern and modern periods of South Asian history, with its legacy in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan seen in cultural contributions such as:

Mir Taqi Mir, an Urdu poet of the 18th century Mughal Empire
The Taj Mahal in the 1870s
Lahore, Punjab
, Pakistan
Buland Darwaza in Fatehpur Sikiri, Agra, India


The Mughals made a major contribution to the

Aurangabad, Delhi, Dhaka, Fatehpur Sikri, Jaipur, Lahore, Kabul, Sheikhupura, and many other cities of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh,[165] such as:

Lalbagh Fort
aerial view in Dhaka, Bangladesh
India Pakistan Bangladesh Afghanistan
  • Bagh-e-Babur in Kabul, Afghanistan
  • Shahjahani Mosque in Kabul, Afghanistan

Art and literature

Finial in the form of a parrot, Mughal empire, 17th century.

The Mughal artistic tradition, mainly expressed in painted miniatures, as well as small luxury objects, was eclectic, borrowing from Iranian, Indian, Chinese and Renaissance European stylistic and thematic elements.[166] Mughal emperors often took in Iranian bookbinders, illustrators, painters and calligraphers from the Safavid court due to the commonalities of their Timurid styles, and due to the Mughal affinity for Iranian art and calligraphy.[167] Miniatures commissioned by the Mughal emperors initially focused on large projects illustrating books with eventful historical scenes and court life, but later included more single images for albums, with portraits and animal paintings displaying a profound appreciation for the serenity and beauty of the natural world.[168] For example, Emperor Jahangir commissioned brilliant artists such as Ustad Mansur to realistically portray unusual flora and fauna throughout the empire.

The literary works Akbar and Jahangir ordered to be illustrated ranged from epics like the

, a Persian dictionary compiled during the Mughal era.


According to Qazvini, by the time of

Indo-Persian political culture, to unite their diverse empire.[174] Persian had a profound impact on the languages of South Asia; one such language, today known as Urdu, developed in the imperial capital of Delhi in the late Mughal era. It began to be used as a literary language in the Mughal court from the reign of Shah Alam II, who described it as the language of his dastans,[175] and replaced Persian as the language of the Muslim elite.[176][177] According to Mir Taqi Mir, "Urdu was the language of Hindustan by the authority of the King."[178][179]


Gunpowder warfare

Mughal matchlock rifle, 16th century.