The Hollow Crown

Too much success can become a cause of failure. The same happened when Aurangzeb’s son ascended the throne and mismanaged the empire and with his death, things went completely downhill.
When the end began- Emperor Bahadur Shah I; Source: Public Domain

When the end began- Emperor Bahadur Shah I; Source: Public Domain

History does not necessarily repeat itself, but echoes from the past can often be heard into the future. The battle of Jajau saw two brothers against each other. Mughal princes Mu'azzam and Muhammad Azam stood at odds- all for a crown that surrounds the mortal temples of a man.

Shah Jahan and his brothers had fought each other to lay a claim over the Mughal empire. A region that began in bloodshed again got drenched with the blood of his own sons. Aurangzeb eliminated all his brothers to win the peacock throne of his power.

As the aligning emperor lay on his deathbed, his only wish was to keep his demise a secret. Aurangzeb wanted to prevent his empire from plunging into another series of civil wars that had plagued the end of his predecessors.

As mighty as of a king he was, he too could not stop this from happening. The wheels of history were set into motion and chaos ensued.

Swords clashed, horses neighed, warriors fell. There could only be the victor of the war and that was Mu'azzam Shah Alam. After killing his brother Muhammad Azam and his three sons in the battle of Janaju, he ascended the throne as Bahadur Shah I.

Born on 14 October 1643,  Mu'azzam was the youngest of three sons of Aurangzeb and Nawab Bai. His journey on the path to get the throne began during the reign of Shah Jahan when he was appointed as the Vizier to Lahore. His political ambition grew and he hatched a conspiracy to seize his father’s throne. Aurangzeb was a shrewd man and hence, eliminated all possibilities of him getting subjected to the same fate as his father. He made sure that the power of the empire revolved around him. Instead of taking up arms against his son, he sent his mother to persuade him.

Whenever the Prince was sent to crush a rebellion, he would fail- deliberately or not, it’s difficult to judge. The whole episode was fishy enough for Aurangzeb to not trust his own child.

In 1687, the emperor ordered him to mount on a mission against Golconda. Aurangzeb's doubts were soon verified when his spies confirmed that Mu'azzam was planning to usurp his throne and had entered into an alliance with his enemy.

He was dealt with strictly and practically lived under his father’s surveillance till his death.

When Mu'azzam ascended the throne, the empire turned out too large for him to manage. All his policies backfired. The Sikh rose under the leadership of Banda Bahadur and took away a huge chunk of his territory. In the Deccan, Maratha leader Shahu Maharaj and his Peshwas, Balaji Vishwnatha and Bajirao stood as a great challenge to his power.

By the time Bahadur Shah died in 1712, the institution of the empire deteriorated even further. Night comes for all and the sun of the great Mughal Empire was setting on the horizon.


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