Mughal Rulers

Akbar (1556-1605)

Detail of the mausoleum of Ghazi Akbar
Detail of Akbar's mausoleum

Detail of Akbar's mausoleum

Emperor Akbar ascended the Mughal throne at the age of 14. During his reign he enlarged his kingdom of Northern India, Afghanistan and Persia, and although he was a Muslim he had Hindus in his government.

Akbar had three hundred wives including some who were Hindus. He was known for his princely manners and he loved literature and art, and encouraged both. In fact he was illiterate, but he enjoyed serious discussion. He also had many fine buildings built. He was known for the firmness and wisdom of his rule and was given the title 'Guardian of Mankind'. He died shortly before he was to meet an Englishman for the first time, sent by James I and VI. He was succeeded by his son, Jahangir.

Jahangir (1605 -1627)

Detail of a Portrait of Ghazi Jahangir

Ghazi Jahangir (1605-27).

Jahangir was the son of Akbar, and ascended the throne after his father's death. Jahangir built the Shalimar Gardens in Kashmir, as well as many grand buildings and gardens in Lahore. He was the first Indian emperor to welcome an Englishman to the Mughal court - the Englishman was Captain William Hawkins, who was trying to obtain permission from Jahangir to open a factory in India. Hawkins and Jahangir got on so well, that Hawkins stayed there for more than six months and married a woman of Jahangir's choice. However, Jahangir only gave permission for an English factory to be set up at Surat 7 years later, after much bribery and persuasion from the Company. There was to be a factory there from the Netherlands, which at the time was ruled by Marits.

Shah Jahan (1628 -1666)

Portrait of Ghazi Shah Jahan (1628-1666)
Portrait of Ghazi Shah Jahan (1628-1666)

Portrait of Ghazi Shah Jahan (1628-1666)

Shah Jahan was one of India's most able rulers. He was a brave and competent commander, and the Mughal Empire grew significantly during the course of his reign. He was also a generous master who treated his servants with respect, and a far-sighted leader with a strict sense of justice.

He too was active in building palaces, mosques and gardens, including the Taj Mahal and Pearl Mosque in Agra. In 1638 he moved his capital from Agra to Dehli. The new capital was laid out under his direction. He was succeeded by Aurungzeb. 

Aurungzeb (1658 - 1707)

Under Aurangzeb the Mughal Empire grew larger than ever. The Empire was involved in a series of costly wars at this time (including a war with the English). Aurangzeb did not support learning and the arts, although he did have the exquisite Moti (Pearl) Mosque built at Delhi, and the Badshahi (Imperial) Mosque built at Lahore.

Aurangzeb was given many fine presents by the Company, mostly of gold and silver. But even these did not always ensure that the Company got what it wanted. In 1701 Aurangzeb was presented with gifts of cannons, horses, glassware and cartloads of cloth.  The gifts were presented at a grand ceremony to the sound of trumpets, drums and bagpipes. Aurangzeb was not impressed, and kept Sir William Norris (the Company's ambassador to the Mughal Empire) waiting. When Norris left without permission he was brought back and forced to pay a fine. The whole affair cost the Company a staggering £80,000. It was during Aurangzeb's reign that the Company gained the city of Bombay (Mumbai), which was part of the dowry given to Charles II.