Prince Akbar, the Rajputs and the Deccan

Prince Muhammad Akbar s/o Aurangzeb

Copyright: Syed Ali Nadeem Rezavi

Muhammad Akbar (11 September 1657 – 31 March 1706) was the youngest son of Aurangzeb and Dilras Banu Begum. Prince Akbar led a rebellion against his father and fled the Deccan after the failure of that venture.

At the time when Rathore Rebellion broke out in 1679-80, Aurangzeb took prompt action by deputing Prince Azam to check the advance of the Sisodias so that no re-enforcements should reach the Rathores while Prince Akbar was assigned to suppress the Rathore rebellion. Aurangzeb himself remained at Ajmer. The Sisodias withdrew from the plain area and pressed the Mughal army in to the mountainous regions and adopted the guerrilla techniques to harass them.

From the Waqa’i Sarkar Ajmer we come to know that the Mughal army was rendered motionless due to the fear of the Sisodias in the mountainous region. Yet, we are informed, the entire country was over run by the Mughals and captured except the hilly regions where the Sisodias operated.

But on the Rathore front, a new situation developed. Prince Akbar was misled by the Rathores to believe that Aurangzeb was bent upon to destroy the Rathores and as such weaken the Mughal Empire. Prince Akbar was also persuaded by the Rathores, especially by Durgadas in to believing that in order to save the empire it was essential that Aurangzeb should be dethroned and he, that is Prince Akbar, be declared the emperor.
At this time Prince Akbar was accompanied by 70,000 best troops of the Mughal Empire; and now 30,000 Rathores joined him. He thus was now leading a formidable army of one lakh soldiers. Aurangzeb was at Ajmer with an army of only 3000 or 4000, personal guards and servants included.

Another thing which added to the seriousness of the situation was the fact that no re-enforcements could reach Aurangzeb before the rebels: the nearest Mughal army which could reach him was that of Prince Akbar. This created a serious crisis for Aurangzeb.

To justify his rebellion, Prince Akbar wrote a detailed and sarcastic letter to his father, Aurangzeb, which is important from the point of view of the Mughal-Rajput relations. A copy of this letter is preserved in the British Museum.

In this letter, Prince Akbar says that in reality Dara Shukoh was hostile to the Rajputs and faced the consequences for this act. If he had befriended the Rajputs from the very beginning, the situation would have taken another turn. It was because of the support extended to emperor Akbar, that he had consolidated the whole of India under him and it was with the support of the Rajputs that Mahabat Khan was able to restrict the movements of Jahangir and it was the support ‘to you’ by the Rajputs, ‘that you ascended the throne. You doubt the loyalty of the Rajputs in spite the fact that they are laying down their life for a suckling child [Ajit Singh]. During your reign the ministers have no power [wuzara be ikhtiyar and]’, i.e., suspicious of Aurangzeb, ‘nobles cannot be relied upon [nawisanda bekar and], merchants [ tujjar] have nothing, peasants are ruined. Especially in the Deccan, which is a vast area, is being constantly attacked by Marathas. All the people of noble birth are being ignored.’ Many of the advisers of the emperor consist of new people, i.e., they are either julaha, bāfinda (i.e. rafugar), sabun farosh (soap sellers), jaroop farosh (jharoo/ mop sellers) etc. that is ruffians or men of low birth are the main advisors of the emperor and the people who are hypocrites to the Muslim law, having memorized a few sayings and by repeating them to show off their knowledge; such persons are the advisors.’

Thus Prince Akbar points out the chaotic situation which was being faced by the Mughal Empire. Petty officials purchased appointments and then sell them at higher prices. In short they indulge in corruption.

Conclusively two facts emerge from these statements of Prince Akbar in this letter:

(a) that during the War of Succession, the Rajputs were the firm supporters of Aurangzeb as against Dara according to Prince Akbar; and

(b) Prince Akbar felt justified in revolting against Aurangzeb as continuation of Aurangzeb was thought to be detrimental to the Mughal Empire.

Prince Akbar advanced from Jodhpur to Ajmer very leisurely as if he was already the emperor. Aurangzeb was extremely worried about the situation but at the same time he was a man of steel-frame. He ordered that canons should be fixed at Deori and immediate orders were sent to all the nobles in different parts of the empire to come to the help of the emperor.

Aurangzeb was sure that no re-enforcements could reach him in time. But Prince Akbar proceeded just like a king at a leisurely pace. In the meantime an order was sent and Shahabuddin Khan in 3 days covered the distance which could have been covered normally in 10 days. He reached along with 16,000 troops. With their arrival a possibility of resistance increased. Nest day Prince Azam came along with 40,000 troops. Thus now the strength of the troops along with Aurangzeb was around 60,000 and the emperor now felt confident. He now resorted to a tactics he was quite adept at: He wrote a letter to Prince Akbar commending him and congratulating him that he had brought 30,000 Rathore soldiers along with him. He advised him to place the Rathore troops under Durgadas in the vanguard of his army so that from the rear ‘you could attack and from my side I, so that the Rathores would be no more’.

He gave this letter to a messenger to stroll near the camp of Durgadas Rathore. The scouts of the Rathore intercepted the messenger, discovered the letter of Aurangzeb to Prince Akbar. When it was read, Durgadas thought that he was caught in a treachery and fled. This sudden misunderstanding between two allies, caused confusion in the camp of Prince Akbar who too was constrained to flee in the face of the desertion of the Rathores. His Mughal soldiers joined Aurangzeb. The rebellion collapsed within no time. Akbar fled to the Deccan and took shelter with Shambha Ji.

The flight of Prince Akbar to the court of Shambha Ji in the Deccan created a serious problem for the Mughal administration in the Deccan as a Mughal puppet prince with Shambhaji, supported by Golcunda and Bijapur could have created very serious repercussions for the Mughals. Only a prince could fight a prince. So a sufficient army to tail Shambhaji and fight Golcunda and Bijapur must comprise a large force to fight on three fronts in the front; and now must be headed by a prince of the royal blood. And what was the guarantee that that Prince would not rebel?

So the flight of Prince Akbar and his taking shelter in the Deccan created a situation which forced Aurangzeb to revive the temptation to annex and follow a forward policy in the Deccan. Now if the prestige of the Mughal Administration in the Deccan was to be maintained, the Emperor himself had to go there; there was no way out. And Aurangzeb left Ajmer in 1681 for the Deccan never to return again. Once this forward policy was undertaken, neither the Deccan nor the Mughal Empire could be the same!