Rebellions in Bihar and Bengal

The Mughal governor of Bengal set limits on the Bengali army, including pay, which incited rebellions. Rebellions also ensued after Mughal emperor Akbar was accused of abandoning Islam.

Summary of Event

On March 3, 1575, Munim Khan defeated Daud Khan Karrani at the Battle of Tukaroi, Tukaroi, Battle of (1575) laying the foundations for Mughal rule in Bengal. However, Daud and the other Karranis continued to resist the Mughals for a number of years from Orissa, to the southwest of Bengal. In July of 1576, at Rajmahal, the Mughals conquered Bengal a second time under the leadership of Man Singh. This time, however, they executed Daud, thereby ensuring that he would not resist their consolidation of power. There were other obstacles, however, as Afghan chiefs continued to resist Mughal expansion and fight among themselves. Bihar;rebellions in (1580-1587)
Mughal Empire
Bengal;rebellions in (1580-1587)
Muzaffar Khan
Mirza Muhammad Hakim
Munim Khan
Daud Khan Karrani
Singh, Man
Muzaffar Khan
Mirza Muhammad Hakim
Sayyid Khan

One of the great strengths of Mughal emperor Akbar was his ability to work with subject kings, governors, and other rulers to develop a strong network of power. Under Akbar, Bengal was made a suba (governed dominion). Muzaffar Khan became subadar (governor) on December 19, 1578. Akbar’s half brother, Mirza Muhammad Hakim, governed Kabul as an independent ruler.

The lack of central control of the northeast opened the door for the rebellions. The suba administration was introduced at the end of 1586 to establish control over the rebellions. Because Bengal demonstrated the need for a structured and uniform administration, the subadar path of succession was well-delineated in Bengal. If the subadar of Bengal died, the highest imperial officer at Monghyr would succeed him. If this officer did not exist, then the governor of Bihar would take over the rule of Bengal, because of the proximity of the provinces. In addition to a subadar, Bengal had a diwan, with extensive powers over the provincial exchequer, and a bakshi, who controlled military finance. This prevented the subadar from becoming too autocratic within the province, and it removed the possibility of rebellion against central authority.

The suba also had a waqai-navis, a news reporter and liaison who communicated the actions of the governors to Akbar, acting as a watchdog for viceregal affairs. These officers were all appointed by Akbar in 1587 but developed true power within the empire under Jahāngīr’s reign, a few decades later. As part of the suba system, the subadar was required to send a form of tribute called peshkash to Akbar on a regular basis. This defined Bengal’s relationship with the central court as one of a subject dominion.

Yet, when Bengal was conquered by the Mughals in 1576, there was no such system in place. The Afghans continued to battle with one another and, in reality, Bengal looked less like an extension of Mughal rule than a continuation of embattled disputes among rival chieftains in a divided principality. In 1580, however, centralized authority completely vanished when the Mughal chiefs’ united front gave way to competing interests. Muzaffar Khan, Akbar’s governor in Bengal, had put in place many strict policies in the region, limiting the actions of the Bengali army. Muzaffar Khan reduced the pay of troops, enforced the branding of army horses to prevent fraud and theft, and revoked the unauthorized alienation of land.

When Mirza Muhammad Hakim declared himself independent in Kabul, rebels within the Bengali army attached themselves to his cause quickly, in part because of sympathy with Mirza Hakim. Many rebels, though, simply wished to consolidate their forces against Muzaffar Khan, and Mirza Hakim’s rebellion provided a convenient excuse. Others sought the strength in numbers that a rebel coalition would provide between supporters of Mirza Hakim and disgruntled Bengali and Bihari army officers.

The chief religious judge (mullah) in Jaunpur called for loyal Muslims to rise against Akbar, too, fearing that Akbar was a threat to orthodox Islam. These fears were not wholly unsubstantiated, as Akbar had great tolerance for other religions. He also had developed a hybrid religion called Din-i-Ilahi Din-i-Ilahi[Din I Ilahi] (Divine Faith), which combined Islamic principles with Hinduism and Jainism and borrowed also from the Parsis, Sikhs, and Christians whom Akbar frequently invited to discuss their faiths. Several of the rebels answered this call and joined the revolt out of religious loyalty, and a belief that Akbar had wholly abandoned Islam.

Whatever their reasons, the rebellion took hold in Bengal and Bihar. They defeated Muzaffar Khan and his loyalists, and Bengal and Bihar were declared to be under the control and protection of Mirza Hakim. Loyal Mughal troops regained Bihar easily, but Bengal and Orissa proved more difficult. As Mirza Hakim was preoccupied by Akbar’s invasion of Kabul in 1581, the Afghans returned to their factionalized fighting and took de facto control of the region.

After defeating Mirza Hakim, Akbar turned to conquering Bengal for a third time. He sent a new governer to Bengal, who in turn won a partial victory, but parts of the region remained under the Afghans. The next subadar continued gradually to regain territory, but still, the Afghan rulers maintained power. In June, 1584, however, the Mughals had a major victory, as Kutlu Khan of Orissa, who had taken over parts of Bengal and Orissa, was defeated.

In 1586, the last Afghans finally accepted Mughal overlords in their territories, and what rebels remained were crushed in 1587. This allowed for the institution of the subadar system in Bengal. Wazir Khan was the first subadar, but he died in 1587 shortly after his tenure began. He was followed by Sayyid Khan, who held the post from 1587 to 1594.


Because of Bengal’s riches, especially its agriculture, the Mughals had a vested interest in the region. Possessing Bengal was integral to the growth and prosperity of the Mughal Empire, so quelling rebellions, regardless of the cause, was essential to the continued central strength of Akbar’s empire. The defeat of the Afghans and the rebels demonstrated the real end of the Karranis in Bengal and ensured that Mughal supremacy in the region would be maintained.

Further Reading

  • Eaton, Richard M. The Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier, 1204-1706. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996. Part of the Comparative Studies on Muslim Societies series, this work identifies Bengal as a “frontier” for the spread of Islam into India and as a frontier of ideas and nationhood.
  • Raychaudhuri, Tapan. Bengal Under Akbar and Jahāngīr: An Introductory Study in Social History. Delhi, India: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1969. Raychaudhuri’s work remains valuable as a study of social life of ordinary Bengalis from 1574 to 1627, as he discusses the social structures, culture, gender relations—the daily lives—of Bengalis. He examines some possible reasons for the actions of Bengalis during this period, and also discusses administrative structures, expanding the idea of Bengali exceptionalism.
  • Sarkar, Jadunath. The History of Bengal. Vol. 2. Delhi, India: B. R., 2003. Part of a multivolume history of Bengal, this volume examines Bengal under Islamic rule prior to the British takeover. Sarkar includes a discussion of the tumultuous transfer of power from the Afghan sultan Daud Khan to Mughal rule.

1459: Rāo Jodha Founds Jodhpur

Mar. 17, 1527: Battle of KhĀnua

Dec. 30, 1530: Humāyūn Inherits the Throne in India

1556-1605: Reign of Akbar

Feb. 23, 1568: Fall of Chitor

Mar. 3, 1575: Mughal Conquest of Bengal

Feb., 1586: Annexation of Kashmir