Wretched India under the Mughal Rule

 By Vishnu Vardhan

Though the Mughal rule of India is the mosr painful chapter of its history, the Indian presstitutes have tried their best to create a false impression that common Indians were happy and prosperous under their rule. In fact, the life of common Indian under the Mughal Raj was a wretched one.

There was an enormous burden of poverty that Indians had to carry in their life. They were like a worm impaled on a nail who was helpless and immobile in its predicament. The poverty was so oppressive that it seemed irredeemable and people had given up struggling against it long back – in its initial stage. There seemed no light to them at the end of the tunnel. In such an environment of hopelessness, there was no easy possibility for them to engage in enterprise, trade and industry – even the agriculture could hardly endure and flourish the Mughals’ royal plunder in the name of normal revenue tax and, for Hindus, extra-normal burdon of Zajia. At best, they could hope to somehow survive and that was their dream.

There is a great irony of the way in which we Indians have been taught the history. We learn in schools the names of Mughal kings, the monuments they built, the wars they fought or won, their administrative reforms and the likes. All these are taken from what their court historians describe about them. It is not the history of India or Indian people; it is royal history of those kings.

This royal history is that India was then the richest nation on Earth. Every piece of bullion be – it silver or gold – used to flow into India, like all rivers flow into seas. Nations gave their gold and silver to buy spieces, cloths, precious stones and many specialities like them from india and India had to never buy anything from outside. This India retained all that wealth and grew rich and oppulous. Europeans were so desperate to come to India and enamoured about the wealth of India that they used to get rich in their dreams on coming to India. It is on the authority of books that they themselves wrote.

Today USA is the richest country in the world. There are a lot of billionaires in the U.S. but still an average American is also rich there. It is so because there is freedom to do business and enterprise, and there is an opportunity for getting education and reap its fruits. It was not so in India during the Mughal rule. The life of an average indian during the Mughal Raj was a wretched one.

Then in India it was not the prosperity of the economy that made the ruling kings rich; on the contrary, they fattened themselves by churning the country of whatever wealth it had and by extracting all the cream out of it. The people were poor, the country was poor, only the emperors and their amirs were rich. Let us have a look at the quantum of the looted wealth that these Mughal kings had got with them.

The Royal chest of Akbar at the times of his death consisted of seven million gold muhrs, 100 million silver rupees and 230 million copper dams, and a vast treasure of gems, ornaments, gold and silver bullion. So vast was Akbar’s stock of gold and silver that in 1597, when he was celebrating the festival of the sun in Lahore and a great fire burned down a part of his palace, molten gold and silver were said to have “streamed into the streets”.

Jahangir’s chest had the precious stones that were eighty pounds (more than five millions carats) of uncut diamonds, hundred pound each of rubies and emeralds and six hundred pounds of pearls, ‘Of the other less important varieties there was infinite’.
And Shahjahan had built caves under his palace to store huge bars of gold and silver. The chair he sat on – the peacock throne – alone had jewels worth 10 million.
Aurangzeb’s Vizier wife wore diamond studded chappals worth 1 million.
Shahjahan’s Vizier has an annual income of 50 lakhs rupees and an average worker was paid 1/40 rupee per day. This fact cracks the best kept secret of the economic condition of an average Indian under the Mughal rule. Its acute pain of common India under the Mughal rule is accentuated manifold when this income is contrasted with the oppulence of the ruler. Shahjahan alone took 36.5 % of tax revenue collected from India for his personal use. He and his Amirs took 61.5 % income. So nearly 70 percent of India’s wealth was with 655 people in Shahjahan’s time.

Akbar was even worse. Out of 17.5 million pounds of India’s revenue, Akbar alone took 9 million and combined all his 1000 Amirs took nearly 85%. So 120 million Indians lived only on 15% of income. It is an irony that Akbar, the tyrant, is dubbed as Akbar, the great. He was a tyrant who had squeezed sweat and blood of people and lorded over them. All he did was to make a good administrative system to extract Taxes from common man without giving back anything to them. One should be cautious when reading their court historians like Abu Fazal or Ain-i-akbari and believing statements on that basis that Akbar was a great benevolent or progressive king. He was no better than a Khilji or a Lodi.

Mughal kings extracted revenue as high as 50 % from farmers. One should remember that today farmers have no tax to pay.
Since most of these mughal rulers never invested on canals, ponds or any kind of irrigation system, recurring famines were normal part of life of india. These occurred every season in some part of their empire.
Some of those famines were extremely severe.

During the reign of Shahjahan – there was a severe Famine in Deccan and Gujarat which claimed 30 lakhs lives. One Dutch traveller Von Twist has described the famine in such a piteous and tragic way that tears will flow down in our eyes. He says “Men deserted their wives and children. Women sold themselves as slaves. Mothers sold their children. Children deserted by their parents sold themselves. Some families took poison, and so died together; others threw themselves into the rivers. Mothers and their children went to the river-bank, and drowned themselves hand in hand, so that the rivers flowed full of corpses. Some ate carrion flesh. Others cut up the corpses of men, and drew out the entrails to fill their own bellies; yes, men lying in the street, not yet dead, were cut up by others, and men fed on living men, so that even in the streets, and still more on road-journeys, men ran great danger of being murdered and eaten.Terrible tragedies were seen every day. It was reported that “a mother had killed and cooked her only son . . . that husbands had eaten their wives, wives their husbands, children their parents . . . Some of our Dutchmen, coming from Ahmadabad, found some people sitting at a little fire where hands and feet were cooking, a terrible thing to see. Even worse was it in the village of Susuntra, where human flesh was sold in open market.”

Aurangzeb caused many more famines in Deccan war with his scorched heat war, where his soldiers used to burns lakhs and lakhs of acres of farms to punish the deccan kings. Mustaid Khan in his description of a famine that devastated the Deccan during Aurangzeb’s siege of Golconda says: “ Kos after kos (mile after mile) the eye fell only on mounds of corpses. The incessant rain melted away the flesh and the skin . . . After some months when the rains ceased, the white ridges of bones looked from a distance like hillocks of snow.”

Says Manucci about yet another famine towards the close of Aurangzeb’s reign in these words: “In those two years (1702-04) there expired over two millions of souls; fathers, compelled by hunger, offered to sell their children for a quarter to half a rupee, and were yet forced to go without food, finding no one to buy them.”

Do we know that Shahjahan – who built TajMahal for his 3rd wife [He is always shown holding a flower and sings great songs like Jo Wada Kiya Who nibhana parerga in movies] – had started a community kitchen and spent a grand sum of 5000 per month of famine relief? In all he spent 1 lakh in 20 months which is 1/10 of the make up money spent by his Queen Mumtaz.

India produced world’s highest amount of food grains but the famers were starving as empire took away everything. We exported clothes to every part of the world but the weavers were naked, our artisans and workers produced every article in the world, which was exported by Mughals and their nobels to the world, and this brought back all the gold in the world to India. But those artisans died in penury; they starved. When Aurangzeb invaded Deccan the 3/4 of artisans died due to starvation.

We had the biggest gold mines, diamond mines, copper, silver, coal mines but there was not even a gram of gold in 99 % of people’s homes.

Wages were so pathetic – a labour earned only 80 paise per month. Slaves earned even less and most were not paid. An Amir employed 500 people just as torch bearers and each elephant had 12 people to look after it and Jahangir’s Dog had 50 people working for it. People and labour were dead cheap. Working for 16 hours didn’t fill theit stomach.

As there was no incentive to grow, build an enterprise and there was no example where had work had made a person rich, people had no desire to progress; they only tilled hard to fill their stomach. Generations after generations toiled till their death and many died a premature death.


Pelsaert, Francis (a Dutch trader in India in the second decade of the 17th century): Remonstrantie (translated by W. H. Moreland as Jahangir’s India)

Tavernier, Jean-Baptiste (a French jewel merchant in India in mid-17th century): Travels in India, 2 vols.

Thevenot, M. de (a Frenchman in India in mid-17th century): His account in Indian Travels of Thevenot and Careri

Varthema, Ludovico di: (an Italian traveller in India in the first decade of the 16th century): The Itinerary of Ludovico di Varthema of Bologna from 1502-1508

Ovington, J (an Englishman in India in late 17th century): A Voyage to Surat in the year 1689

Manucci, Niccolao (Italitan adventurer in India in the second half of the 17th century): Storia do Mogor, 4 vols.

Linschoten, John Huighen Van (a Dutch trader in India in late 16th century): The Voyage of John Huighen Van Linschoten to the East pp. 150-76)
Monserrate, Fr. Anthony (a Jesuit at Akbar’s court): Journey to the Court of Akbar (Tr: J. S. Hoyland) (London, 1922)

Sarkar, Jadunath: History of Aurangzeb, 5 vols (Calcutta, 1912-24 / Longman, 1973-74) Sarkar, Jadunath: Historical Essays (Calcutta, 1912) Sarkar, Jadunath: House of Shivaji (Calcutta, 1940 / 1978) Sarkar, Jadunath: Shivaji and His Times (Calcutta, 1920) Sarkar, Jadunath: Mughal Administration (Calcutta, 1924) Sarkar, Jadunath: Military History of India (Orient Longman, 1960)

Moosvi, Shireen: The Economy of The Mughal Empire (Oxford, 1987) Moreland, W. H.: From Akbar to Aurangzeb (London, 1923) Moreland, W. H.: India at the Death of Akbar (Delhi, 1990 / 1920) Moreland, W. H.: The Agrarian System of Moslem India (Delhi, 1990 / 1929)

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