Ans. Broadly speaking the states of the eighteenth century can be divided into three overlapping groups:
(1) States that were old Mughal provinces like Awadh, Bengal and Hyderabad. Although extremely powerful and quite independent, the rulers of these states did not break their formalties with the Mughal emperor.
(2) States that had enjoyed considerable independence under the Mughals as watan jagirs. These included several Rajput principalities.
(3) The last group included states under the control of Marathas, Sikhs and others like the Jats. These were of differing sizes and had seized their independence from the Mughals after a long-drawn armed struggle.
Ans. Between 1720 and 1761, the Maratha empire expanded. It gradually chipped away at the authority of the Mughal Empire. Malwa and Gujarat were seized from the Mughals by the 1720s. By the 1730s, the Maratha king was recognised as the overlord of the entire Deccan peninsula. After raiding Delhi in 1737 the frontiers of Maratha domination expanded rapidly: into Rajasthan and the Punjab in the north; into Bengal and Orissa in the east; and into Karnataka and the Tamil and Telugu countries in the south. These were not formally included in the Maratha empire, but were made to pay tribute as a way of accepting Maratha sovereignty.
Ans. Mughal Empire faced crisis caused by a number of factors towards the end of the seventeenth century.
i. Aurangzeb depleted military and financial resources of his empire by fighting a long war in the Deccan.
ii. It became increasingly difficult for later Mughal Emperors to keep a check on powerful mansabdars.
iii. The Governors established independent kingdoms in different areas.
iv. Mounting taxes led to Peasants and zamindari rebellions.
v. Nadir Shah sacked and plundered the city of Delhi in 1739 and took away immense amounts of wealth.
vi. This invasion was followed by series of plundering raids by the Afghan ruler, Ahmad Shah Abdali, who invaded north India five times between 1748 and 1761.The empire was further weakened by the competition amongst different groups of nobles.
Ans. Three common features amongst these states were:
First, though many of the larger states were established by erstwhile Mughal nobles they were highly suspicious of some of the administrative systems that they had inherited, in particular the jagirdari system.
Second, their method of tax collection differed. Rather than relying upon the officers of the state, all three regimes contracted with revenue-farmers for the collection of revenue. The practice of ijaradari, thoroughly disapproved of by the Mughals, spread all over India in the eighteenth century. Their impact on the countryside differed considerably.
The third common feature in all these regional states was their emerging relationship with rich bankers and merchants. These people lent money to revenue farmers, received land as security and collected taxes from these lands through their own agents. Throughout India the richest merchants and bankers were gaining a stake in the new political order.
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