For a long time Akbar had no son. He was unhappy to think that after him there would be no one to carry on his good work. So he went to a very holy man called Shaikh Salim Chishti, and told him of his secret sorrow. The holy man comforted him and said that if he prayed to God, his wish would be granted. And so it happened. His queen gave birth to a son. There was great rejoicing in the court. Akbar's heart was full of gratitude for Shaikh Salim, and he named the baby prince Salim in honour of the holy man.
Prince Salim was everyone's pet, especially his father's. This spoilt him a little. He thought he could have everything he wanted without working for it. Akbar tried his best to train him to be a good king.
When Salim grew older, he turned against his father. He set a Bundela chief to kill Abul Fazl, Akbar's great friend and adviser. Then he tried to become king in place of his father. Akbar was very pained at his son's behaviour, but because he loved him so much, he forgave him.
When Akbar died, Salim became king. He called himself Jahangir, which means conqueror of the world. Perhaps he felt sorry for some of the things he had done while his father was alive, for he tried to be good to his people. Akbar had worked hard to make life better for the farmers of his land, for his soldiers and his officers. He had brought order and peace everywhere in his empire. Jahangir kept all Akbar's arrangements as they were, and even tried to make them better. He thought that it was the right of each one of his subjects, whether he was rich or poor, to get absolute justice. So he had a big bell fixed near his room. A chain was tied to it, and one end of it hung at the gates of the royal palace. Whoever wanted to appeal to the emperor for justice could ring the bell at any time of the day or night. While the emperor loved justice, he was also harsh in punishment.
When Jahangir was still a prince, there was a Persian nobleman at his fathers court. He had a beautiful daughter called Mehrunnisa. After Prince Salim became emperor he made her his queen, and called her Nur Jahan, the Light of the World. He loved her so much that anything she wished was done at once. Jahangir gave her father and her brother very high positions at his court. He asked her advice in everything he did, and left many important decisions to her. Slowly she became the real ruler, while Jahangir began to spend more and more of his time listening to poetry and looking at beautiful paintings. Nur Jahans portrait was struck on the royal coins and seals along with the emperor's. Once she even led the army against a powerful noble who had turned against the emperor and defeated him.
Jahangir who had once revolted against his father, had to earn a hard lesson himself. While he was king, all his four sons revolted against him and tried to snatch the crown for themselves. The first of them, Khusrau, was blinded for opposing the emperor. Another Prince, Shah Jahan, also fought with Jahangir. But the king's troops proved too strong for him and Shah Jahan had to run away. At last he had to write to his father, begging for forgiveness.
The fame of the riches of India had spread to Europe. Many countries wanted to trade with India. One of these was England. In the reign of Queen Elizabeth, who ruled England at the same time as Emperor Akbar ruled India, a trading company called the East India Company was allowed to send merchants and ships to India for trade. Portuguese traders had already settled down in many places on the coast. They did not want the English to come and become their rivals. English envoys came to India to meet the emperor. They begged the emperor to help the English merchants of the East India Company. One of these Englishmen was Captain Hawkins, and another was Sir Thomas Roe. They were very respectful to the emperor and brought a lot of presents. There was a great stir at the court. Most of the Mughal nobles had never seen an Englishman before. English clothes and hats seemed very strange to the Mughal ladies and they were greatly amused to see them.
There is a story that Jahangir's daughter was very ill when Captain Hawkins came to the Mughal court. He knew something of medicine and offered to treat her. As luck would have it, his medicine worked and the princess became well again. The emperor was delighted with Hawkins and, as was the fashion of kings, asked him to name any reward he liked. I want nothing for myseIf, said the Captain, "but I beg your Majesty to help my country in trading with yours." Jahangir agreed, little knowing what this would lead to in the end.
Towards the end of his life Jahangir became rather ease loving. He left much of the work to Nur Jahan. Many of his nobles and sons became jealous of her and several rival parties were formed at the court. This made the empire weak.
Jahangir was a great lover of beauty. He was struck by the loveliness of Kashmir and visited it many times. He was returning from a holiday in the valley when he died near Lahore. He lies buried on the banks of the river Ravi. After his death, Nur Jahan began to live a quiet and lonely life, and Shah Jahan became the emperor of India.
Shah Jahan's name is known all over the world because he was the builder of the Taj Mahal. He built many other beautiful buildings, including the Red Fort and the Jama Masjid in Delhi. The Jama Masjid is one of the biggest mosques in the world.
Shah Jahan had a queen called Mumtaz Mahal whom he loved very much. They had fourteen children and lived a happy life together for many years. Then Mumtaz Mahal fell ill and died. Shah Jahan vowed that he would build the most wonderful tomb that anyone could imagine for his dear queen. He collected the best builders and artists that he could find, and spent a great deal of time and money on the building of the Taj Mahal. It took more than twenty years to finish. The Taj is counted among the wonders of the world and is certainly among the most beautiful monuments built by man.
This must have given you an idea of the kind of man Shah Jahan was. He loved beautiful things and was ready to do anything for the sake of beauty. The best painters and poets came to his court and were given rich prizes for their work. He ordered a new throne to be made for him, which would be more splendid than that of any other emperor. Jewellers and goldsmiths worked on the throne for seven years. The figures of two peacocks, blazing with precious stones of many colours, surmounted the canopy over the throne. It was called Takht-i-Taoos or the Peacock Throne, and cost over a crore of rupees.
The splendour of Shah Jahan's palace became famous, and visitors came from many countries of Europe to see its marble halls inlaid with precious gems, the fine dresses of the courtiers and the pomp and pageantry of court ceremonial. All this cost Shah Jahan a big fortune, but he was a very rich king. The Mughal Empire had never been as big as it was under him.
The money, of course, came from the peasants and farmers. They became poorer and poorer because they could not afford to pay for all the things their emperor wanted to do. The man who tills the land has always been India's real strength. When he does not do as well as he should, it is a sign that the country will not do well either. This is what began to happen during the reign of Shah Jahan. His officers and nobles were paid a lot of money, but the people of the villages could not make enough to fill their bellies.
Shah Jahan conquered lands to the south, so that his empire became larger than his father's. Once he sent one of his sons to Central Asia with an army. He wanted to conquer the land from where his forefather Timur had come long before. A lot of money was spent on this expedition but it failed to defeat the tribes who lived there.
After all these adventures, Shah Jahan settled down to a peaceful reign, which lasted for thirty years. These times were very good for artists, painters and poets.
The last days of Shah Jahan were not happy. When he had become an old man and lay dying, his four sons began to fight amongst themselves for the crown. The eldest, Dara Shikoh, was his favourite, but he was too much of a scholar to be a strong king. He built a great library and was interested only in books. The second son was brave and intelligent, but he could not make up his mind about things in time. The fourth was always busy enjoying himself. Shah Jahan's third son was a born leader of men. He was very hard working, and put his best into whatever he took up. The name of this son was Aurangzeb, and it was he who won the fight for the crown.
When Aurangzeb had defeated all his brothers one by one, he put his old father in prison, and had himself crowned emperor. Shah Jahan died eight years later.
THE LAST OF THE GREAT MUGHALS
It had not been easy for Aurangzeb to win the throne. He had had to fight and even kill some of his brothers When, at last, he did become the king, he was forty years old. He took the title of Alamgir, or Conqueror of the World.
Aurangzeb's father Shah Jahan and his grandfather Jahangir had both been fond of good living and beautiful things. The nobles of the court had also learnt to live in great style like their masters. This cost a great deal of money, which had to be collected from the people. The poor farmers could not pay the heavy taxes that they were asked to. Slowly they started to leave their villages and come to the cities to look for work. The traders too had a difficult time. Tax collectors were always after them, on the roads, in the bazaars and on the ferries. The people were unhappy, and Aurangzeb's officers found it very hard to control them.