Did the rise of the Maratha confederacy and the fall of the Mughal empire facilitate British colonization?

By Sunil Kumar

My answer to a qtn on Qra(the series continued);

Interesting. The rise of the Maratha confederacy also happened due to the fact that the Mughal Empire weakened after the death of Aurangzeb in 1707. Shivaji; who laid the foundations of the Marathas; was a minor chieftain in strictly historical terms; but he was a brave king who actually challenged the Mughals.

For nearly a thousand years; all power in India was usually top-down; with Delhi emerging as the epicenter of all the political and administrative turbulence in the Indian subcontinent.

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Visit sunil-kumar.co.in Table of Historical Maps (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The British entered India in their Elizabethan age; and were initially kowtowing to the Mughal empire(Jehangir) to take on their continental rivals; the Portuguese for trading outposts on the West Coast of India(Surat in Gujarat). It was only when Mughal power had definitely weakened in 1757; nearly fifty years after Aurangzeb; that the British got their first major substantial victory in India(defeating Nawab Siraj-ud-Daula; and getting Bengal, Bihar and Orissa).

In 1818; the Marathas and their vassals were firmly defeated by the British; in part due to the internal bickering of Nana Phadnavis and Mahadji Shinde; two relatively powerful ministers. The defeat of Tipu and the weakening of the Maratha confederacy happened nearly simultaneously. By this time; British India had expanded with large swathes of the east; south and west under their control.

It was only after the annexation of the Punjab(last Anglo-Sikh war in 1849) that the entire Indian subcontinent was mostly under British control. Dalhousie’s doctrine of lapse provoked a revolt in India(1857: the first war of Indian independence or the Mutiny according to the British); and the Crown took over India in 1858.

The weakening of the Mughal empire largely due to philandering, murderous and no strong kings after Aurangzeb created a power vacuum that the British deftly exploited to their advantage. Also; when the British lost the United States in the late 1770s; Cornwallis was sent to India to avenge his defeat in the West. The Maratha confederacy became powerful subsequently but were defeated in a brutal battle at Panipat(1761). At this time; and even after this(upto 1818) the Marathas were quite powerful; with their rule extending from the south right upto Attock(present-day Pakistan).

The British were natural empire-builders and clever traders; managed to create rifts; bribed many locals; and gradually took over the entire trading ecosystem. So; in my opinion; the weakening of the Mughal empire is a larger contributing factor in the eventual British colonization.

 

 

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