The 17th Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan III succeeded Mughal Emperor Alamgir II. Shah Jahan III was the great grandson of Aurangzeb. He was the grandson of his youngest son Muhammad Kam Baksh. He ruled only to be deposed by the Marathas which gave way to the 18th Mughal emperor Shah Alam II.
Born as Ali Gauhar in 1728, he was the son of Mughal Emperor Alamgir II and the grandson of Jahandar Shah.
After his father ascended the throne at the age of 55, he became the Crown Prince aka “Wali Ahd” of the empire. However, his fight with the Wazir Imad-ul-Mulk made him flee in 1758. This became the cause of his father’s death as Imad-ul-Mulk assumed it was the emperor’s plan against him.
Elevation to the Mughal Throne
After a daring escape from Delhi, Prince Ali Gauhar appeared in the eastern provinces in 1759, hoping to strengthen his position by gaining control over Bengal, Bihar and Odisha.
Very soon however, Najib-ud-Daula, forced the usurper Feroze Jung III to flee from the capitol after he gathered a large Mughal Army outside Delhi, which deposed the recreant Shah Jahan III. Najib-ud-Daula and Muslim nobles and then planned to defeat Marathas by maintaining correspondence with the powerful Ahmad Shah Durrani.
After Ahmad Shah Durrani decisively defeated the Marathas, he nominated Ali Gauhar as the emperor under the name Shah Alam II.
The Reign of Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II
His reign was full of struggle. While he could sit at the throne with the help of the Durranis, he had to face hardships due to internal as well as external forces including the British force. He fought the Battle of Buxar against the British and lost.
Next, he signed the treaty of Allahabad with Robert Clive, gave them the Diwani rights of Bengal, Bihar as well as Odisha and sought their protection. Further, they even secured taxes from Kora and Allahabad which made them the imperial tax collector in the provinces under Mughal empire.
According to the treaty, he was supposed to be away from Delhi. He stayed away from Delhi for the next 12 years and returned only in 1772 under the protection of Maratha general Mahadji Shinde. Post his return, almost everybody started attacking – the Jats, the Sikhs. It was because of ShahAlam II’s bad judgement that his legacy turned into a huge downfall.
The Huge Downfall and the Shame Brought by Ghulam Qadir
In 1788, Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II was blinded by Ghulam Qadir, the grandson of Najib Khan, the enemy of the Mughals. Also, he behaved with gross brutality towards the emperor’s family. The servants and water carriers who tried to help the emperor were beheaded.
According to some accounts, Ghulam Qadir even used to strip the princesses of the royal family and forced them to dance. When the prestige of the family reached its lowest ebb, the Maratha ruler Mahadaji Shinde intervened and killed Ghulam Qadir. He even restored Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II to the throne and acted as his protector.
Shah Alam II honored Mahadaji Shinde but soon also became his puppet. The Marathas got hold of north India for next two decades until they British East India Company surpassed them post the Second Anglo-Maratha War in 1803.
Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II had more than 16 sons and two daughters. He had several wives including Piari Begum, Taj Mahal Begum, Jamil un-nisa Begum, Mubaraq Mahal and Murad Bakht Begum. His second son Akbar II became the 19th Mughal Emperor and his grandson Bahadur Shah II, the 20th and the last Mughal Emperor.
Shah Alam II died of natural causes in 1806 at the age of 78. He was buried next to Bahadur Shah and Akbar Shah II. Their grave lies next to the dargah of Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki, a 13th century Sufi saint at Mehrauli in Delhi.
Source and Reference:
Mughal Empire in India: A Systematic Study Including Source Material by SR Sharma
The Great Maratha Mahadaji Shinde – N. G. Rathod
The Fall of the Moghul Empire of Hindustan