Rājput Rebellion Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

Mughal emperor Aurangzeb provoked a thirty-year-long rebellion among the Rājputs that ended the long-established Mughal-Rājput partnership. The failure to maintain this partnership contributed to Mughal decline, the rise of the Marāthās, and, perhaps, later European hegemony.

Summary of Event

Although 1526 marks Bābur’s establishment of the Mughal Empire Mughal Empire in India, its real architect was Bābur’s grandson, Akbar Akbar (Mughal emperor) (r. 1556-1605), who brought northern and central India under his sway. During the 1560’, he became embroiled with various Rājput chieftains in Rajasthan, southwest of Delhi. These were Hindu warrior-princes who ruled clansmen (thakurs) whose values and way of life resembled those of medieval European feudal society, upholding ancient traditions of chivalrous and heroic conduct. Wars, uprisings, and civil unrest;1679-1709: Rājput Rebellion[2690] Government and politics;1679-1709: Rājput Rebellion[2690] India;1679-1709: Rājput Rebellion[2690] Rājput Rebellion (1679-1709)[Rajput Rebellion (1679-1709)]

Among the most prominent Rājput states were Mewar (Udaipur), Marwar (Jodhpur), Amber (Jaipur), Jaisalmer, Bikaner, Kotah, Bundi, and Alwar. Since the eleventh century, the Rājputs had resisted waves of Muslim invaders from what is now Afghanistan. Their martial qualities, spirit of independence, and strategic location meant that Akbar could not undertake extensive conquests throughout India without first breaking them. [kw]Rājput Rebellion (1679-1709) [kw]Rebellion, Rājput (1679-1709)

Akbar was both a pragmatist and a visionary. Contemporary sources fail to explain the process, but after he had defeated some Rājput leaders and neutralized others, he inaugurated a policy of rapprochement that evolved into a Mughal-Rājput partnership. Some Rājput princes (for example, Raja Bihari Mall of Amber) voluntarily submitted and became Mughal imperial officers to whom the emperor granted mansabs (ranks in the imperial hierarchy with an obligation to maintain a designated number of troops). As mansabdars of the empire, these Hindu princes could become army commanders or provincial governors like their Muslim counterparts. Nowhere else in the history of Islam did Muslim rulers show such confidence in non-Muslim subjects. In time, some Rājput princes gave their daughters to be Akbar’s wives: The daughter of Raja Bihari Mall, Jodha Bai (d. 1623), was to be the mother of Akbar’s son, Jahāngīr Jahāngīr (1605-1627). Between these elite Rājputs and the Mughal Dynasty there occurred a degree of cultural assimilation, such as happened in few other societies where Muslims and non-Muslims lived so closely. Akbar even permitted his Rājput wives to practice their religion within the imperial harem

During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, due largely to this Mughal-Rājput partnership, the Mughal Empire expanded until, during the reign of Akbar’s great-grandson, Aurangzeb Aurangzeb , it embraced most of the Indian subcontinent. Akbar’s son, Jahāngīr, half Rājput, followed Akbar’s example, as did Jahāngīr’s son Shah Jahan Shah Jahan (r. 1628-1658), whose mother was also a Rājput princess.

When Shah Jahan fell ill in 1658, his four sons, all children of his Persian wife, Arjumand Banu Begam (later known as Mumtaz Mahal Mumtaz Mahal , reportedly for whom he built the Taj Mahal Taj Mahal ), embarked upon a fratricidal struggle for succession. The eventual victor, Aurangzeb, then proceeded to eliminate his rivals. Unlike his two elder brothers, Aurangzeb was a fanatical Sunni Muslim. He believed that Islam Islam;Mughal Empire in India was in danger of being spiritually diluted by heresy and heterodoxy, and he sought to restore the pristine Islam of the time of the Prophet. The Rājput princes were bound to regard Aurangzeb’s personality with distaste, and he reciprocated their dislike. Aurangzeb, it may be surmised, would have much preferred his commanders to be devout Muslims. Still, for the first twenty years of his reign, the Mughal-Rājput partnership survived, if slightly tattered.

In 1678, however, Raja Jaswant Singh Jaswant Singh of Marwar, one of Shah Jahan’s best generals, died at Jamrud while fighting the Pathans. He died without heirs, and Aurangzeb, as his overlord, resolved to annex Marwar Marwar (in accordance with the practice known during the times of British India as the doctrine of lapse). At the time of his death, however, one of the raja’s wives (a princess from Mewar) was pregnant, and she eventually gave birth to a son and heir, Ajit Singh Ajit Singh , in Lahore (1679). The baby was to be brought to Delhi on Aurangzeb’s orders, and, it was said, he was to be brought up in the imperial harem as a Muslim. This and the annexation of the state were utterly repugnant to the Marwar thakurs. One of their most daring, Durgadas Durgadas , managed to kidnap mother and child and bring them back to Marwar. However, to evade Mughal pursuers, Durgadas later spirited them away to Mewar, where the rana, Raj Singh Raj Singh , angered by Aurangzeb’s actions, provided sanctuary. He was outraged not only by the Mughal invasion of Marwar but also by Aurangzeb’s reimposition of the jizya, the hated but canonical poll tax levied on non-Muslims, which Akbar had abolished. Raj Singh became the heart and soul of Rājput intransigence.

Aurangzeb, in addition to sending an army of occupation into Marwar, despatched another force against Mewar in a war of attrition extending from 1679 to 1681. In the fighting that followed, Raj Singh proved a master of guerrilla warfare in the harsh and inhospitable Aravalli hills. Given the struggle in Marwar and Aurangzeb’s desire to proceed south to the Deccan, the emperor rather surprisingly entered into negotiations with Raj Singh’s son, Jai Singh Jai Singh . Jai Singh ceded three parganas (administrative districts) in lieu of paying jizya and having the Mughal army evacuate Mewar. However, by then the damage had been done. The genie of mutual distrust that now characterized Mughal-Rājput relations could never be put back in the bottle.

Aurangzeb’s dealings with the Rājputs were further exacerbated by the conduct of his third and favorite son, Prince Akbar, Akbar (Aurangzeb’s son) whom he had sent against the rana of Mewar. Akbar’s forces had been defeated, and Aurangzeb, highly displeased, had transferred the prince to the Marwar front. Relations between father and son rapidly deteriorated, and Akbar, breaking with the emperor, threw in his lot with the Rājputs, dreaming of being placed on the imperial throne with their help. Marching with a large Rājput force to Ajmer (January 15, 1681) while the main Mughal army was in Mewar, he could have seriously threatened Aurangzeb, if he had acted vigorously. Instead, he idled his time there, allowing the wily Aurangzeb to sow seeds of suspicion between him and his new allies. The policy worked. The Rājputs abandoned him, mistrusting his motives, and the prince fled to the Deccan to seek sanctuary with the Marāthā Marāthā kingdom[Maratha kingdom] king, Sambhājī Sambhājī . Aurangzeb followed him to the Deccan, where he remained for the rest of his reign. In addition to his determination to crush the Marāthās, he had a long-standing ambition to annex the Shīՙite sultanates of Bijapur and Golconda. Not long after, Prince Akbar fled to Persia, where he died in 1704

Meanwhile, the withdrawal of the imperial presence from Rajasthan left the exasperated and disaffected Rājputs with considerable de facto independence. As noted, Aurangzeb had been forced to negotiate with Rana Jai Singh (in 1681) to enable the emperor to proceed to the Deccan, but with regard to Marwar, the struggle became a veritable thirty years’ war, with resistance headed by the redoubtable Durgadas. By the time of Aurangzeb’s death in 1707, Ajit Singh, mentored by Durgadas, was twenty-eight years old. Aurangzeb’s successor, Bahādur Shāh Bahādur Shāh , had made peace with Ajit Singh in 1709, acknowledging him as Marwar’s legitimate ruler. Thereafter, Ajit Singh came to the imperial court, playing politics

In 1714, he married a daughter to the emperor Muhammad Farrukhsiyar Muhammad Farrukhsiyar (r. 1713-1719) and acquired governorships of Ajmer and Gujarat. In 1721, however, he was removed from office for collaborating with the Marāthās, although he was forgiven in 1724. Shortly thereafter, he was murdered by his eldest son, Bakht Singh Bakht Singh , supposedly for incest with Bakht Singh’s wife. Despite his less than heroic personality, he remained, even through his opium-sodden last years, the central (although perhaps largely passive) player in the great drama that had led to the alienation of the Rājputs from Mughal rule. His second son, Abhai Singh Abhai Singh , succeeded him, but whereas the father flirted ineffectively with the Marāthās, the son remained close to the imperial court. Seemingly, pro- or anti-Marāthā sentiment had little to do with religion, but was a question of political expediency.


The Mughal Empire grew and flourished partly as a result of the Mughal-Rājput partnership initiated by Akbar. Through religious fanaticism, obstinacy, and mistrust, Aurangzeb effectively destroyed that partnership. Had he continued to enlist the Rājputs and their military skill, he might have solved the Mughal Empire’s concerns of the northwest frontier: the Marāthās and the Deccani sultanates. Instead, he squandered military staffing and resources on the Rājput struggle.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Chandra, Satish. Parties and Politics at the Mughal Court, 1707-1740. 1959. Reprint. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002. An excellent resource on the Rājput involvement in later Mughal politics.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Gascoigne, Bamber. A Brief History of the Great Moghuls. New York: Carroll & Graf, 2002. This well-written, general history of the Mughals chronicles the rise and fall of the empire from its founder, Bābur, through Aurangzeb. Illustrated.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Hallissey, Robert C. The Rajput Rebellion Against Aurangzeb. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1977. The best available account, with an excellent bibliography.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Richards, John F. The Mughal Empire. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992. A comprehensive account of the Mughal empire. Strongly recommended.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Sharma, G. N. Mewar and the Mughal Emperors. Agra: Agarwala, 1962. A detailed narrative of Mughal-Mewar relations.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Tod, James. Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan. London: Smith, Elder, 1829-1832. Reprint. 2 vols. New Delhi, K. M. N., 1971. A superb example of nineteenth century, Anglo-Indian historiography, and still indispensable reading.
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ՙAbbās the Great; Aurangzeb; Jahāngīr; Kösem Sultan; Murad IV; Shah Jahan;Śivājī. Rājput Rebellion (1679-1709)[Rajput Rebellion (1679-1709)]

Categories: History