BAHADUR SHAH (1643-1712), Mughal emperor of India from 1707 to 1712. Born Muhammad Mu\’azzam at Burhanpur in the Deccan on 14 October 1643, he was actively employed by his father, Aurangzib, from 1663 onwards for subduing the kingdom of Bijapur and the Qutb Shahi dynasty of Golconda in the south. In 1695 he was appointed subahdar of Agra and in 1699 governor of Kabul. Mu\’azzam was at Kabul when news arrived of the death, on 20 February 1707, of Aurangzib.
The Emperor\’s death was a signal for the usual war of succession and, in Mu\’azzam\’s absence, his younger brother, Azam Shah, assumed the throne. Mu\’azzam came down from Kabul and won a decisive victory in the battle of Jajau, near Agra, on 8 June 1707. He sat on the throne of Delhi, with the title of Bahadur Shah.Bahadur Shah, who had the reputation of being liberal in his religious policy, had requested Guru Gobind Singh for help in the war of succession and the Guru had sent a body of Sikhs to fight on his side in the battle of Jajau to defend his right to the crown, he being the eldest of the surviving sons of Aurangzib.
When Bahadur Shah was firmly in the royal seat. Guru Gobind Singh came to Agra on 23 July 1707 to pay him a formal visit. The Emperor expressed immense happiness at seeing the Guru and thanked him for his visit and for the help he had given him in the battle. Bahadur Shah presented the Guru with a khill\’at including a jewelled scarf, a dhukhdhukhi, and an aigrette or kalghi. The Guru\’s attendant who waited outside the hall was called in to carry the dress of honour to his camp, contrary to the Mughal practice of the recipient having to put it on in the court.
This meeting became the starting point of parleys between Guru Gobind Singh and the Emperor on the question of the State\’s religious policy. But Bahadur Shah had to leave suddenly for the Deccan to quell a rebellion by his brother, Kam Bakhsh. Guru Gobind Singh travelled south with him to continue the negotiations. Nawab Wazir Khan of Sirhind felt alarmed at the Emperor\’s conciliatory treatment of Guru Gobind Singh, and he charged two of his trusted men with murdering the Guru before his increasing friendship with the Emperor resulted in any harm to himself.
When one of these two Pathans stabbed Guru Gobind Singh, Bahadur Shah sent expert surgeons, including an Englishman, to attend on the Guru and his injury was temporarily healed. The negotiations, however, remained inconclusive. On his return in 1710 from the Deccan after a successful campaign against his brother, Kam Bakhsh, Bahadur Shah found himself confronted with a Sikh rebellion under the banner of Banda Singh Bahadur who had occupied territory in parts of the Punjab.Banda Singh\’s increasing influence roused the ire of Bahadur Shah, who ordered a general mobilization of all his forces in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Oudh, and called for volunteers for a jihad against the Sikhs.
Prohibitary laws against the Sikhs were passed. Fearing that some Sikhs might not have smuggled themselves into the royal camp disguised as Hindus, Bahadur Shah ordered all Hindus employed in the imperial offices to shave off their beards. His order, issued on 10 December 1710, was a general warrant for the faujdars to kill the worshippers of Nanak i.e. Sikhs, wherever found(Nanak prastan ra harja kih bayaband baqati rasanand). Bahadur Shah, with a massive imperial force sixty thousand horse and foot stormed the Lohgarh fortress in the sub-montane region where Banda Singh had taken shelter but could not capture him.
Bahadur Shah reached Lahore in August 1711 where for the next six months his courtiers fed him on stories of Mughal victories over Banda Singh\’s “rabble.” But as the days rolled by with Banda Singh still free, still defiant, the Emperor became melancholic and died on 27 February 1712.
1. Sarkar.Jadunath, Fall of the Mughal Empire. Delhi, 1971
2. Irvine, W., Later Mughals. London, 1922
3. Khushwant Singh, A History of the Sikhs, vol. I. Princeton, 1963
4. Sharma, Sri Ram, Religious Policy of the Mughal Emperors. Bombay, 1962