The Mughal power began to decline after death of Aurangzeb.

Within 30 years of his death, Mughals lost most of their South Indian possesions. New states were established by 3 prime nobles, Sadat Ali Khan, Murshid ul Kuli Khan and Qamar ud Din Khan, even when the throne saw 8 rulers in 12 years. But all pronounced themselves, to be allegiant to the Mughal throne, though, each individually was stronger than the throne in Delhi.

Shahuji's Army under treaty with Sayyid brothers, simply walked into Mughal capital, and deposed Farrukhsiyar, the ruling emperor. But the Treaty was not about sharing spoils. Shahuji, in the treaty, agreed to accept rule of Mughal throne in Deccan, and in return was guaranteed Swaraj, self rule, and rights to revenue, in the same Mughal Deccan.

The Marathas had the effective control of more than 70 % of the Indian subcontinent by 1758. The had sacked Delhi several times. The Mughal empire, was not a stakeholder, in the power dynamics at all.

Then why were they held on throne as puppet rulers? Even after the Third Battle of Panipat, Ahmed Durrani after victory, before leaving back for Afghanistan, installed Shah Alam II as Mughal emperor, and issued firman to all indian chiefs, to recognise him as the ruler.

In 1772, Mahadji escorted the then deposed , and even blind Shah Alam II, from Allahabad to Delhi to crown him as king again. And then, he got royal titles in court, and ruled the state, in Emperor's name.

And many more instances. In 1857, sepoys of the mutiny, stormed into Delhi, and the Emperor was nearly forced to accept being the leader of mutiny, and from there, sepoys again proclaimed him Emperor of India. The question I have, is, why was the Mughal throne, used as a token to rule in India. Why wasn't it simply abolished, and ended. Why did powers not rule in their own name? Why wasn't the Mughal throne, simply abolished long ago and fade into oblivion?

  • I love that word "puppets". Thats what I need a puppet. Somebody to carry out my whims while I relax out of the public eye. Sep 12, 2014 at 19:57
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    +1 for a nice question. There may be several points of view on this though- and a number of complex factors that also kept changing over time. Remember that you are talking about a dynamic situation- there couldn't really be a cutoff date when all proclaimed "we're independent".
    – Rajib
    Sep 18, 2014 at 11:31
  • About the change of title, I would say the earlier title was better. In the details, the OP clearly intends it to be a general question than a particular instance.
    – taninamdar
    Dec 8, 2015 at 21:01
  • I see you have answered it in a brilliant way yourself and I concur. Mughul dynasty ruled for a very long time over India. While indulging in certain sporadic wrong acts, it can be said without doubt that India's most glorious hour was under the Mughuls.
    – NSNoob
    Dec 18, 2015 at 12:13
  • It will also be interesting that abbasids of Baghdad weakened too, becoming nominal figureheads. But every Sultan from Afghanistan to North Africa did all they did in his name (With exception of Egypt and Spain who eventually declared their complete independence, until Caliphs of andalusia were cast down by Andalusian nobles & Saladin Ayubbi ended Egyptian independence). Even when a Sultan died, New Sultan had to request "permission" to assume his predecessor's throne from Baghdad. Only because of respect for house of Abbas.
    – NSNoob
    Dec 18, 2015 at 12:16

3 Answers 3


I found something interesting This is Benoît de Boigne. In 1783 he had audience, with the Emperor in Delhi proposing discovery of new trade routes. But the Emperor put off any decision. The day after the audience, an imperial edict gave Mahadji Sindhia the government of the provinces of Delhi and Agra. In other words, Sindhia became the imperial regent and the real power, while Emperor Shah Alam, without being deposed, was now only a figurehead. In 1790, de Boigne summarized Indian politics of the time:

"The respect toward the house of Timur [the Moghul dynasty] is so strong that even though the whole subcontinent has been withdrawn from its authority, no prince of India has taken the title of sovereign. Sindhia shared this respect, and Shah Alam [Shah Alam II] was still seated on the Moghul throne, and everything done in his name."

I am keeping the post open

  • 1
    I can't really accept "respect" as a credible factor in the domain of politics, empire, ambition, economics, greed, survival, etc. You get the drift.
    – Rajib
    Sep 18, 2014 at 11:33
  • Maybe, respect reads acceptability, and so. But I too had the same question as you in mind, when I put the on H:SE . I still have not got the answer . I'll see Grant Duff. Maybe something can be drawn then
    – Rohit
    Sep 21, 2014 at 10:03
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    Respect does not necessarily mean respect by Rival nominal vassal rulers. Respect means the sense of legitimacy and acceptance by the Locals as legitimate authority. Emperor of Delhi Bahadur Shah II was the figurehead of 1857 war of independence. Why did everyone rally to him if not for "respect"?
    – NSNoob
    Dec 18, 2015 at 12:27

In a word - prestige; and thus legitimacy.

Its a similar sentiment that revived the Roman Empire after its dissolution, first by Charlemagne in 800 AD and then an aborted attempt by Hitler (The third Reich) in the early 20th Century.

In contemporary politics one can view attempts to establish the Islamic caliphate in a similar light.

  • 2
    Two corrections: when Charlemagne "revived" the Roman Empire there was already a "Roman" emperor in Constantinople, so "dissolution" is not really the right word. Second: Hitler claimed to be reviving the Holy Roman Empire ("second Reich"), but laid no claim to the legacy of the Roman empire.
    – fdb
    Sep 12, 2014 at 17:43
  • @fdb That's precise. Pope crowned Charlemagne because he was Catholic unlike the Orthodox real Roman Emperor in Constantinople. I find it really annoying myself when people consider HRE to be heir of WRE when by all rights, Eastern Roman Empire was the real heir. Roman Empire existed in East till 1453 even though it was referred to as "Empire of Greeks" or "Byzantine Empire" by Western historians and leaders to undermine its position as heir of Roman Emperors.
    – NSNoob
    Feb 7, 2017 at 8:34
  • Mozibur Ullah - HItler's Greater German Realm had no connection to any Roman Empire. The Holy Roman Empire as considered a ancestral state but only was a previous regime ruling Germany, not as a Roman Empire. fdb - In German Historography the Holy Roman Empire (962-1806) is usually called the First Reich, the Germany Empire (1871-1918) the Second Reich, and Nazi Germany (1933-1945) the Third Reich.
    – MAGolding
    Mar 2, 2017 at 21:35
  • NSNoob - There were no Catholics or Orthodox in 800 AD. The legal justification was that there had been no emperor since 797 when Constantine VI was deposed by his mother Irene who was a woman. Thus the Pope and Charlemagne considered the emperorship to be vacant.
    – MAGolding
    Mar 2, 2017 at 21:45

I'm currently reading Indian history from 800AD to 1500AD. What I found is whenever someone declared themselves a ruler, other will unite in attacking them and bringing downfall on the said rulers family. Its easier to rule in name of some distant puppet ruler and collect revenue and not bother about the atrocities as those were committed in name of emperor.

Its my own thoughts and I don't have any articles to back this.

  • 1
    I think it is extremely biased to smudge the entire reign of Mughuls by the word "atrocities". Sure some rulers like Aurangzeb were controversial but I believe it is unfair to imply that for 3 centuries, only atrocities were committed.
    – NSNoob
    Dec 18, 2015 at 12:25
  • 1
    @NSNoob I was commenting that 'you can rule in name of some puppet ruler and create atrocities' its not same as 'all moughals were tyrants' Beside, mughal ruled for less then 200 years Dec 18, 2015 at 13:53
  • Oh okay I misunderstood that. I thought it lasted form 1526 to 1857. Almost three if you discount the years of Humayun's exile.
    – NSNoob
    Dec 18, 2015 at 14:25
  • actually it disintegrated rapidly after death of Aurangzeb and by 1720-1740 most of India was under Marattha rulers and mughal's authority was reduced to Delhi's boundary walls. In fact muslim rule existed only in Audh (Nawab of Awadh) and Hyderabad Nizam. Moreover, Nizam had to pay tribute (chouth) to maratha for this privilege. Remember that Nadir Shah (and later Ahmad Shah Durrani) controlled punjab (morder day pakistan) Dec 18, 2015 at 15:19
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    Disintegration and loss of provinces however does not mark the end of Mughul Empire in both de-facto or de-jure way. Mughul Empire did end officially in 1857 however I agree that Mughul Empire was nothing but a shadow after death of Aurangzaib.
    – NSNoob
    Dec 20, 2015 at 19:29

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