During 1612–1757, the East India Company set up “factories” (trading posts) in several locations, mostly in coastal India, with the consent of the Mughal emperors or local rulers. Its rivals were the merchant trading companies of Holland and France. By the mid-18th century, three “Presidency towns”: Madras, Bombay, and Calcutta had grown in size
From the mid-eighteenth century, the East India Company began to maintain armies at each of its three main stations, or Presidencies of British India, at Calcutta (Bengal), Madras and Bombay. The military arm of the East India Company quickly developed to become a private corporate armed forces and was utilised as an instrument of geo political power and expansion, rather than its original purpose as a guard force, and became the preeminent professional military force in the Indian Sub Continent. As it increased in size the Army was broken into the Presidency Armies of Bengal, Madras and Bombay each recruiting their own integral Infantry, Cavalry, Artillery and Horse Artillery units. The Navy also grew significantly, vastly expanding its Fleet and although made up predominantly of heavily armed merchant vessels, called East Indiamen, also included warships.
Robert Clive led company forces against Siraj Ud Daulah, the last independent Nawab of Bengal, Bihar, and Midnapore district in Odisha to victory at the Battle of Plassey in 1757, resulting in the conquest of Bengal. This victory estranged the British and the Mughals, since Siraj Ud Daulah was a Mughal feudatory ally.
The Battle of Buxar was fought on 22 October 1764 between the forces under the command of the British East India Company led by Hector Munro and the combined army of Mir Qasim, the Nawab of Bengal; the Nawab of Awadh; and the Mughal King Shah Alam II.The British victory at Buxar had “at one fell swoop, disposed of the three main scions of Moghul power in Upper India. Mir Qasim disappeared into an impoverished obscurity. Shah Alam realigned himself with the British, and Shah Shuja-ud-Daula fled west hotly pursued by the victors. The whole Ganges valley lay at the Company’s mercy; Shah Shuja eventually surrendered; henceforth Company troops became the power-brokers throughout Oudh as well as Bihar .
Soon after the Battle of Buxar, Shah Alam II, a sovereign who had just been defeated by the British, sought their protection by signing the Treaty of Allahabad in the year 1765. Shah Alam II was forced to grant the Diwani (right to collect revenue) of Bengal (which included Bihar and Odisha) to the British East India Company in return for an annual tribute of 2.6 million rupees to be paid by the company from the collected revenue. Tax exempt status was also restored to the company. The company further secured for the districts of Kora and Allahabad which allowed the British East India Company to collect tax from more than 20 million people. East India company thus became the Imperial tax collector in the former Mughal province of Bengal (which included Bihar and Odisha). East India company appointed a deputy Nawab Muhammad Reza Khan to collect revenue on behalf of the company. The emperor resided in the fort of Allahabad for six years. Warren Hastings, the head of East India company got appointed as the first Governor of Bengal in 1774.
In the year 1771 the Marathas under Mahadji Scindia returned to northern India and even captured Delhi. Shah Alam II, was escorted by Mahadji Scindia and left Allahabad in May 1771 and in January 1772 reached Delhi. Along with the Marathas they undertook to win the crown lands of Rohilkhand and defeated Zabita Khan, capturing the fort of Pathar garh with its treasure. Mahadji was appointed as Vakil-ul-Mutlaq (regent of Mughal affairs)
he Hindu Jat kingdom of Bharatpur waged many wars against the Mughal Delhi and in the 17th and 18th century carried out numerous invasions in Mughal territories including Agra During one massive assault Jats sieged Agra in 1761, after 20 days on 12 June the Mughal forces at Agra surrendered to Jats.
They carried the bounty including the two great silver doors to the entrance of the famous Taj Mahal (plundered by mughals after defeating Chittorgargh Rajputs) were carried off and melted down by Suraj Mal in 1764. Suraj Mal’s son Jawahar Singh, further extended the Jat power in Northern India and captured the territory in Doab, Ballabgarh and Agra. Jats kept Agra fort and other territories closer to Delhi under their control from 1761 till 1774.
Sikhs, many of whom were Jat Sikhs, had been in perpetual war against mughal intolerance specially after beheading of Sikh gurus and their families by mughals. Simmering Sikhs rose once again in the year 1764 and overran the Mughal Faujdar of Sirhind, Zain Khan Sirhindi, who fell in battle and ever since the Sikhs perpetually raided and took the bounties from the lands as far as Delhi practically every year. They attacked, won and extracted payments from Delhi three times in 11 years particularly in 1772, 1778 and 1783.
Ghulam Qadir , the grandson of Najib Khan himself blinded Shah Alam II on 10 August 1788. Ghulam Qadir behaved with gross brutality to the emperor and his family. Young Prince Mirza Akbar was forced to nautch dance together along with other Mughal princes and princesses. He witnessed how the members of the imperial Mughal family were humiliated, as well as starved.Three servants and two water-carriers who tried to help the bleeding emperor were beheaded and according to one account, Ghulam Qadir would pull the beard of the elderly Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II. After ten horrible weeks, during which the honour of the royal family and prestige of the Mughal Empire reached its lowest ebb, Mahadaji Shinde intervened and killed Ghulam Qadir, taking possession of Delhi on 2 October He restored Shah Alam II to the throne and acted as his protector. Thankful for his intervention, he honoured Mahadji Scindia with the titles of Vakil-ul-Mutlaq (Regent of the Empire) and Amir-ul-Amara (Head of the Amirs). However, he was actually a puppet at the hands of Mahadji Scindia of the Marathas who were his protectors.
His power was so depleted by the end of his reign that it led to a saying ‘The kingdom of Shah Alam is from Delhi to Palam’. Thus India was totally free of Muslim rule when British came to India and Mahadji was the true ruler of Hindustan .Kini, the English biographer of Mahadaji Shinde, has described Mahadaji as the greatest man in South Asia in the 18th century. But he died, at his camp at Wanavdi near Pune on 12 February 1794 .
He left no heir, and was succeeded by Daulat Rao Scindia, a grandson of his brother Tukoji Rao Scindia, who was scarcely 15 years of age at the time. Daulatrao was reecognised and formally installed by the Peshwa, 3 March 1794, and conferred the titles of Naib Vakil-i-Mutlaq (Vice Regent of the Empire), Amir-al-Umara (Head of the Amirs) from Emperor Shah Alam II on 10 May 1794.
Urged possibly by this adviser, Daulatrao aimed at increasing his dominions at all costs, and seized territory from the Maratha Ponwars of Dhar and Dewas. The rising power of Yashwantrao Holkar of Indore, however, alarmed him. In July 1801, Yashwantrao appeared before Sindhia’s capital of Ujjain, and after defeating some battalions under John Hessing, extorted a large sum from its inhabitants, but did not ravage the town. In October, however, Sarjerao Ghatge took revenge by sacking Indore, razing it almost to the ground, and practicing every form of atrocity on its inhabitants.
Then, in 1802, on the festival of Diwali, Yashwantrao Holkar defeated the combined armies of Scindia and Peshwa Bajirao II at Hadapsar, near Pune. The battle took place at Ghorpadi, Banwadi, and Hadapsar.
Finally, on December 31, 1802, the Peshwa signed the Treaty of Bassein, by which the British were recognized as the paramount power in India.
After the Battle of Delhi (1803), on 14 September 1803 British troops entered Delhi and Shah Alam II, a blind old man, seated under a tattered canopy, came under British protection. The Marathas in 1804 under Yashwantrao Holkar tried to snatch Delhi from the British in Siege of Delhi (1804), but failed.
Akbar Shah II was appointed Mughal Emperor after the death of his father Shah Alam II . The British therefore reduced his titular authority to ‘King of Delhi’ in 1835 and the East India Company ceased to act as the mere lieutenants of the Mughal Empire as they did from 1803 to 1835. Simultaneously they replaced Persian text with English text on the company’s coins, which no longer carried the emperor’s name.
The British encouraged the Nawab of Oudh and the Nizam of Hyderabad to take royal titles in order to further diminish the Emperor’s status and influence. Out of deference, the Nizam did not, but the Nawab of Awadh did so.
I want to narrate one more incidence in this context :
Archibald Seton, a Scottish East India Company Administrator was the appointed Officer in Red Fort. Next in line to throne, Crown Prince Mirza Jahangir was against British way of working. One day, this reckless young prince of 19 insulted Seton by calling him Lullu. Seton did not react then. Perhaps he did not understood the meaning of the word. Few days later, when Seton was returning from court, Mirza Jahangir, sitting on the roof of Naubat Khana, fired a shot at him, missing Seton completely. While Seton escaped unhurt, his orderly lost his life. Angry with this, British arrested Mirza Jahangir and sent him to Allahabad fort. Back then, it was famous that a political prisoner, who is sent to Allahabad Fort, never returns alive.
The Mughal court tried its best to save him, but the administration was in British hands completely. Having failed at every door, Empress Mumtaz Mahal, mother of Mirza Jahangir came to the shrine of Sufi Saint Khwaja Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki (ra) in Mehrauli, Delhi. She took a vow that if Mirza Jahangir returns safely, she would offer a sheet (chadar) of flowers at the Dargah.