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Chapter XI – The Fall of Golkonda

Aurangzib had been badly served by his generals in the Deccan: but the fault was his own. His morbid distrust had thwarted their efforts; the command had been divided between jealous rivals; the forces at their disposal had been insufficient to crush Sivaji or subdue the southern kings; and the commanders had been too frequently superseded to permit of connected and prolonged energy. It is possible that the languid progress of his arms in the Deccan was not wholly undesigned by the Emperor. He may have intended to give the rival forces in the south time to destroy each other, and anticipated an easy triumph over a disorganized and exhausted enemy. So far as the two kingdoms of Bijapur and Golkonda were concerned, his forecast was accurate enough. Their armies seem to have melted away; they had fallen so low as to pay blackmail to the Marathas; Golkonda had already grovelled before the Mughals, and it was only owing to the interference of Sivaji that Bijapur had not become a Mughal city in 1679. But the weakening of the old Deccan kingdoms had

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been procured at the expense of strengthening the Marathas. Sivaji had annexed all the southern territory which his father had lately won for the King of Bijapur; he had full possession of the western Ghats and Konkan; and his forts continually sent out armed expeditions to harry the country north and east, wherever the blackmail had not been humbly paid. The ‘great Captain,’ indeed, was dead, but his genius lived in the nation he had created. Aurangzib could not realize the power of these freebooters. He understood the solid weight of organized states and disciplined armies; but he never estimated the irregular domination of the Marathas at its true value, until years of fruitless contest had seared the truth upon his mind and spread its witnesses in the starved and butchered corpses of his Grand Army through the length and breadth of the peninsula.

However little he may have appreciated the gravity of the situation which he had suffered to grow up in the Deccan, Aurangzib saw that the time had come for decisive action. He had by this time come to terms with the Rajputs of Udaipur65, and abandoned a vain attempt to subdue the irrepressible tribes of Afghanistan; and, though in neither case could he feel satisfied with the makeshifts he had been obliged to adopt, he felt himself free for a while to dismiss Rajput and Afghan affairs from his mind, and to take the Deccan imbroglio into his own hand. At the close of 1681, Aurangzib arrived at Burhanpur, and took

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command of the army. He little thought that he should never see Delhi again; that after twenty-six years of stubborn warfare he should die among the ruins of his hopes in the land where he had first held government. Forty-five years before, in 1636, he had come to Khandesh a youthful devotee of seventeen. As a man in the prime of life, he had gone near to conquering the coveted kingdoms (1656). And now at the age of sixty-three he resumed his old work with all his former energy. He could not foresee that a quarter of a century later, a weary old man on the verge of ninety, he would still be there, still fighting the same foe, still enduring the same fatigues and exerting the same iron will, till the worn out frame at last gave way, and the indomitable soul fled to its rest.

The Emperor’s first step was to endeavour to strike awe into the Marathas by sending his sons, the Princes Mu’azzam and A’zam, to scour the country. It was a useless proceeding. The Marathas offered no opposition, and left their rugged country to punish the invaders. Prince Mu’azzam accordingly marched through the whole Konkan, and laid it waste, and when he reached the end he found that he had hardly a horse fit to carry him, and that his men were marching afoot, half-starving. The enemy had cut down the grass, so that no fodder could be obtained: the Mughal troopers ‘had no food but cocoanuts, and the grain called kudun, which acted like poison upon them. Great numbers of men and horses died. Those who escaped death dragged on a half-existence, and with

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crying and groaning felt as if every breath they drew was their last. There was not a noble who had a horse in his stable fit to use66.’ When they tried to victual the army by sea, the enemy intercepted the corn ships. The rocks and forests of the Ghat country had been quite as destructive to the cavalry as the spears of the Marathas could have been. Fighting torrents and precipices, and enduring an unhealthy climate and scarcity of food, was an unprofitable business; and the Princes were ordered to converge upon Bijapur, whilst Aurangzib pushed forward to Ahmadnagar.

As soon as the enemy’s back was turned, Sivaji’s son, Sambhaji, swiftly led his active little horsemen behind their flank, and crossing over to Khandesh burned Burhanpur and set the whole country side in a blaze. Before the Mughals could get at them, they were safe again in their fastnesses in the Ghats. This stroke is typical of the Maratha method of warfare. They never risked an engagement in the open field unless their numbers made victory a certainty. When the heavy Mughal cavalry attacked them, the hardy little warriors, mounted on wiry steeds as inured to fatigue as themselves, and splendidly broken in for their tactics, would instantly scatter in all directions, and observe the enemy from a neighbouring hill or wood, ready to cut off solitary horsemen, or surprise small parties in ambush; and then, if the pursuers gave up the useless chase, in a moment the Marathas were upon them, hanging on their flanks,

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despatching stragglers, and firing at close quarters into the unwieldy mass. To fight such people was to do battle with the air or to strike blows upon water: like wind or waves they scattered and bent before the blow, only to close in again the moment the pressure was taken off. They would dash down from their mountain retreats and intercept a rich convoy of treasure; and before the Mughals could get near them they were back in their rocky forts. Even if pursued to their lair and smoked out, so to speak, they only went to some equally convenient and almost inaccessible stronghold to resume their usual trade of plunder, in which they took unfeigned delight. It is true they had no longer a leader of Sivaji’s capacity, for his son was an idle dissolute sot, whose spasmodic days of daring rapine were separated by long intervals of languid inaction. But the time when a leader was essential was over. Sivaji had converted an easygoing race of peasants into a nation of banditti, fired by a universal love of plunder, and inspired by a universal hatred of the Muslim. The Marathas were no longer the fairly disciplined army that Sivaji had organized; they had become independent bands of brigands, each acting for itself, and grasping all that came within reach. But the effect was the same as if they had still formed one force under one leader. Each man fought and trapped and pillaged in the same common cause – the national war against Muhammadan aliens – and their separate efforts produced a sufficiently alarming collective result. Like other

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brigands, however, they were good to their friends. Those who paid the stipulated blackmail had nothing to fear from their raiding parties. They were consequently popular enough with the country-folk, who regarded them as national heroes, and as their defenders against the inroads of the infidels, and were always eager to keep them informed of the movements of the enemy and to warn them of any approaching danger. It is not too much to say that, except the large cities, and the spots where the Mughal armies were actually encamped, the Deccan was practically under the control of these highland robbers.

A good deal of this must have been apparent to the keen glance of Aurangzib, as soon as he had come into personal relations with the Marathas; but he was not to be turned from the course he had set before him. The religious bigotry of the enemy only inflamed his own puritanical zeal, and he was imprudent enough to insist on the strict levying of his poll-tax on Hindus – which had considerably helped the popularity of the Marathas – in the very country where it was most important to lay aside Muhammadan prejudices. His first step on arriving in the Deccan was to issue stringent orders for the collection of the hated jizya. The people and their headmen resisted and rioted in vain. A tried officer was detached with a force of horse and foot to extort the poll-tax and punish the recusants. It is significant that in three months this sagacious officer reported that he had collected the poll-tax of Burhanpur for the past year (R26,000), and

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begged the Emperor to appoint someone else to carry on the unpleasant business67. Later on a proclamation was issued that no Hindu should ride in a palankin or mount an Arab horse without special permission. The inevitable result of these impolitic measures was to throw the whole Hindi population into the arms of their friends the Marathas, who indeed exacted a heavy blackmail, but made no invidious distinction of creed in their rough and ready system of taxation.

Aurangzib’s plan seems to have been, first, to cut off the sources of the Marathi revenue, by exterminating the kingdoms of Golkonda and Bijapur, which paid tribute to the brigands; and then to ferret the mountain rats’ out of their holes. He clearly thought that the two kingdoms formed his real point of attack, and that after their fall it would be easy to deal with the Marathas. Evidently he did not know his men.

The first part of his programme was the less difficult to carry out. The old Deccan kingdoms were in no condition to offer serious resistance to Aurangzib’s Grand Army. They might have been annexed long before, but for the selfish indolence of the Mughal generals. The truth is, as Bernier68 shrewdly remarks, that these commanders enjoyed their almost royal dignity so much, while at the head of large armies

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in a province far distant from the imperial control, that they thought only of keeping their posts, and took very little trouble to bring the enemy to their knees. ‘They conduct every operation with languor, and avail themselves of any pretext for the prolongation of war, which is alike the source of their emolument and dignity. It is become a proverbial saying that the Deccan is the bread and support of the soldiers of Hindustan.’

Golkonda was the weaker of the two kingdoms. It had always pushed forward its neighbour Bijapur as a buffer to deaden the shock of the Mughal assaults. It had secretly subsidized its neighbour to enable it to defend itself against the Mughals, and at the same time bribed the Imperial officers to attack Bijapur rather than itself. In spite of its ingenuity, however, Golkonda had bowed the knee before Aurangzib in 1656, and had been growing more and more demoralized in the quarter of a century which had rolled by uneasily since then. It was practically a province of the Mughal empire. Its King, Abu-l-Hasan, had never recovered from the shock of that early humiliation. He had become a mere tributary vassal, and had ceased to take any public part in the government of his kingdom. He never appeared in audience, or presided over a court of justice. In 1667 he lived strictly secluded in the fortress of Golkonda, and abandoned himself to debauchery. Meanwhile his metropolis, Haidarabad, was a prey to anarchy and misrule. Relieved from the smallest fear or respect

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for the King, the nobles tyrannized over the people at their will, and the lower classes would sooner have submitted to Aurangzib’s just governance than continue to endure the oppression of their many masters. Indeed, the rule of the Mughal may almost be said to have been established at Haidarabad from the date of the treaty of 1656, for Aurangzib’s Resident there was accustomed to ‘issue his commands, grant passports, menace and ill-treat the people, and in short speak and act with the uncontrolled authority of an absolute sovereign’ Mir Jumla’s son, Muhammad Amin. Khan, exercised practically royal powers at the principal port, Masulipatan; and Mughals, Dutch, and Portuguese had only to prefer their demands, sure of the fulfilment of the prophecy, ‘Ask, and it shall be given unto you.’

It seemed hardly worthwhile to subdue still further an already prostrate kingdom: but the anarchical state of the government might well invite and even require forcible intervention. When Aurangzib learnt that two Hindus had possessed themselves of the chief power in Haidarabad, and were oppressing and persecuting the Musalmans, he felt that the time for intervention had come. A disordered State was an eyesore on his borders; a tributary State where the true believers were persecuted for righteousness’ sake was intolerable. Accordingly, in 1684, Prince Mu’azzam was despatched with Khan-Jahan Bahadur Kokaltash to reform the government of Golkonda. The prince and the general appear to have fallen

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victims to the indolence which was the besetting sin of Mughal commanders in the Deccan. Mu’azzam was a mild and dutiful son, whose gentle docility laid him perpetually open to the suspicion of designing subtlety. His father had suspected him of ambitions which were wholly foreign to his placid nature, and few princes have won credit for so much devilry as Mu’azzam acquired by the consistent practice of all the innocent virtues. Aurangzib had not forgotten that his own blameless youth had veiled the fiercest ambition, and his other son, Prince A’zam, was not slow to point the precedent to the case of Mu’azzam. He was ‘too good to be true,’ evidently. He was certainly too just and humane to be sent to wage a pitiless war. Instead of attacking Haidarabad and Golkonda with the energy which his father expected, the Prince strove in every way to avert hostilities, and then, after some futile skirmishing, for four or five months he remained motionless. It is not surprising to hear that Aurangzib administered a trenchant reprimand, which ‘incensed’ the blameless Prince, but induced him at length to fight. Even when he had beaten the enemy and pursued them into their camp, he gave them a truce for the alleged purpose of removing their women. to safety, and was rewarded by renewed resistance. He then threw out an imbecile proposal that the dispute should be settled by a combat between two or three heroes on either side, the Horatii and Curiatii of Delhi and Golkonda! This does not seem to have been taken up, and at last

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the Prince drew near to Haidarabad, where he ought to have been six months before.

On his tardy approach, the greatest terror and confusion prevailed in the city. The Hindus accused the Muhammadans of betraying their country, and the Muhammadan general went over to the Mughals. The King fled to the fortress of Golkonda, and the city was given over to rival bands of rioters, who plundered and raped and destroyed at their pleasure. There was a stampede to Golkonda, and many thousand gentlemen, unable to save their property or find horses, took their wives and children by the hand, and led them, without veils and scantily clothed, to the protection of the fort.

‘Before break of day, the imperial forces attacked the city, and a frightful scene of plunder and destruction followed, for in every part and road and market there were lacs upon lacs of money, stuffs, carpets, horses, and elephants, belonging to Abu-l-Hasan and his nobles. Words cannot express how many women and children of Musalmans and Hindus were made prisoners, or how many women of high and low degree were dishonoured. Carpets of great value, which were too heavy to carry, were cut to pieces with swords and daggers, and every bit was struggled for. The Prince appointed officers to prevent the plunder, and they did their best to restrain it, but in vain69.’

After all these horrors, Prince Mu’azzam, or as he was now styled, Shah-Alam (‘King of the World’) made peace (1685), on the King’s agreeing to pay an

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indemnity of about a million and a quarter, to surrender certain districts, and to imprison the two Hindu ministers – who in the meanwhile were murdered by the slaves of the harim. Aurangzib must have gnashed his teeth when he heard that his son had tamely surrendered the fruits of his victory: but he pretended to approve the terms of peace, whilst privately telling Shah-Alam what he thought of him. The Prince was recalled.

Aurangzib, however, was not, perhaps, sorry to leave Golkonda alone for awhile, as he was now fully occupied with his invasion of Bijapur. This kingdom, though more important, and far less accessible, by reason of its fortified mountain passes and the scarcity of forage and water, was in little better case for resistance than its sister State. Its outlying cities had already fallen to the Mughals, and its western districts were in the greedy hands of the Marathas, who, nevertheless, had been a chief cause why it had not so far succumbed to the imperial attacks. Now that Sivaji was dead, this source of protection had vanished, and Prince A’zam was deputed to achieve the long deferred conquest. The Bijapuris, however, resorted to their usual tactics: they laid waste all the country round the capital, till the Mughal army was half famished, and they hovered about its flanks and harassed its movements with a pertinacity worthy of Sivaji himself. In August, 1685, however, Aurangzib, appeared upon the scene in person. Under his searching eye the work of intrenching and mining round the

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six miles of ramparts went on heartily. A close blockade was established, and at last after more than a year’s labour the besieged were starved out, and the keys of Bijapur were delivered to the Emperor in November, 1686. The old capital of the Adil Shahs, once full of splendid palaces, became the home of the owl and jackal. It stands yet, a melancholy silent ruin. Its beautiful mosques still raise their minarets above the stone walls, which are even now so inviolate that one might fancy one gazed upon a living city. Within, all is solitude and desolation. The ‘Visiapur’ which astounded so many travellers by its wealth and magnificence, was trampled under the foot of the Puritan Emperor, and fell to rise no more.

Golkonda soon felt the loss of her protecting sister. In spite of the treaty concluded in 1685, Aurangzib resolved to make an end of the Kutb Shah dynasty. His sole justification seems to be that the King had failed to pay the stipulated tribute; but instead of plainly setting forth this ground of complaint, he acted with a dissimulation which was as unnecessary as it was unworthy. Under cover of a pilgrimage to a holy shrine, he marched to Kulbarga, half-way to Golkonda. His agent at Haidarabad was instructed meanwhile to extort the tribute from the King. Abu-l-Hasan collected all the jewels he could lay hands on, and deposited them in baskets at the Mughal Legation by way of security for his debt. Then news came that the Emperor had left Kulbarga and was marching on the capital. His hostile intentions

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were unmistakable. The King was naturally indignant at the breach of faith, demanded his jewels back, and placed the Mughal Resident under arrest; but on the latter pointing out the inevitable vengeance that would follow any injury offered to Aurangzib’s representative, and proffering his mediation with his master, Abu-l-Hasan restored him to liberty.

The Mughal army was at his gates, and the wretched King knew that his fall was at hand. In vain he sent submissive messages to the Emperor, and laid his humble protestations of obedience at his feet. Aurangzib’s reply was uncompromising:–

‘The evil deeds of this wicked man pass the bounds of writing, but to mention one out of a hundred and a little out of much will give some idea of them. He has given the reins of government into the hands of vile tyrannical infidels; oppressed the holy men of Islam; and abandoned himself openly to reckless debauchery and vice, indulging in drunkenness and lewdness day and night. He makes no distinction between infidelity and Islam, tyranny and justice, depravity and devotion. He has waged war on behalf of infidels, and disobeyed the laws of God, which forbid the aiding of the enemies of Islam, by which disobedience he has cast reproach upon the Holy Book in the sight of God and man. Letters of warning and counsel have repeatedly been sent to him by the hands of discreet messengers, but he has paid no heed. Only recently he has sent a lac of pagodas to the wicked Sambhaji. In all this insolence and vice and depravity, he has shown no shame for his infamous offences, and no hope of amendment in this world or the next.’

Seeing that there was no hope of mercy, the King

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of Golkonda prepared to die like a soldier. He cast off his sloth and luxury of life, and set about ordering his army and making ready for the siege of his citadel. In January, 1687, the enemy took ground at gunshot range, and the leaguer began. Day by day and week by week the approaches were pushed forward under the command of Ghazi-ad-din Firoz Jang. Abu-l-Hasan had forty or fifty thousand horse outside the walls, which continually harassed the engineers, and the garrison plied their cannon and rockets with deadly effect upon the trenches. The defence was heroic; frequent and deadly were the sallies of the besieged. The fortress was well found in ammunition and provisions, and a ceaseless fire was kept up night and day from the gates and towers and ramparts. Not a day passed without loss to the assailants. At last the lines were pushed up to the fosse, and Aurangzib himself sewed the first sack that was to be filled with earth and thrown into the ditch. Heavy guns were mounted on earthworks to keep back the defenders, and an attempt was made to scale the walls by night. Some of the besiegers had already gained the ramparts, when a dog gave the alarm, and the garrison speedily despatched the climbers and threw down the ladders. The dog was rewarded with a golden collar.

Meanwhile famine was reducing the Mughal army to extremities. The friends of Golkonda, and especially the Marathas of ‘that hell-dog’ Sambhaji, had laid the country waste; the season was dry; and there was a terrible scarcity of rice, grain, and fodder.

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Plague broke out in the camp, and many of the soldiers, worn out with hunger and misery, deserted to the enemy. When the rain came at last, it fell in torrents for three days, and washed away much of the entrenchments: upon which the besieged sallied out in force and killed many of the Mughals, and took prisoners. The occasion seemed favourable for overtures of peace. Abu-l-Hasan showed his prisoners the heaps of corn and treasure in the fort, and offered to pay an indemnity, and to supply the besieging army with grain, if the siege were raised. Aurangzib’s answer was full of his old proud inflexible resolve: ‘Abu-l-Hasan must come to me with clasped hands, or he shall come bound before me. I will then consider what mercy I can show him.’ Forthwith he ordered 50,000 sacks from Berar to fill the moat.

In June the mines were ready to be fired. A feint attack was made to draw off the garrison from the expected breach, and the fuse was applied. The result was disastrous to the Mughals; the defenders had skilfully countermined, and drawn the powder from one mine, and poured water into the others. The only part that exploded was that nearest to the besiegers, who were wounded and buried by the falling stones, and had scarcely recovered from the shock when the garrison were upon them slaying all who were found in the trenches. ‘Great wailings and complaints arose from the troops,’ and the cannonade from the castle grew hotter as the besiegers’ courage waned. Aurangzib was enraged at the obstinacy of

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the defence, and commanded an assault to be made under his own eyes.

‘Prodigies of valour were exhibited. But a storm of wind and rain arose and obstructed the progress of the assailants, and they were forced to fall back drenched with rain. The garrison again made a sally, took possession of the trenches, spiked the heavy guns, and carried away all that was port-able. They pulled out of the moat the logs of wood and the many thousands of bags which had been used to fill it up, and used them to repair the breaches made by the mines70.’

Where courage and perseverance failed, treason succeeded. Mines and assaults had been vainly tried against the heroic defenders of Golkonda: money and promises at last won the day. Many of the nobles of Golkonda had from time to time gone over to the enemy, and at length only two chiefs remained loyal to the King, Abd-ar-Razzak and Abdallah Khan. Both had been plied with rich promises by Aurangzib. Abd-ar-Razzak, ‘ungracious faithful fellow,’ as his friend the historian relates, ‘taking no heed of his own interest and life,’ showed the Emperor’s letter to the men in his bastion, and tore it to shreds before them. He told the spy who brought it to make answer that he would fight to the death, even as they fought who did battle for the blessed Husain at Kerbela. But his colleague, Abdallah Khan, was open to a bribe. He had charge of a postern gate, and admitted the enemy. The Mughals poured into

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the fortress, and raised a shout of triumph. Abd-ar-Razzak heard it, and leaping on a bare-backed horse, followed by a dozen retainers, galloped to the gate, through which the enemy were rushing in. He threw himself alone into their midst, crying that he would die for Abu-l-Hasan. Covered with blood and reeling in his saddle, he fought his way out, and they found him next day lying senseless under a cocoa-nut tree, with more than seventy wounds.

Meanwhile the King had heard the shouts and groans, and knew that the hour was come. He went into the harim and tried to comfort the women, and then asking their pardon for his faults he bade them farewell, and taking his seat in the audience chamber, waited calmly for his unbidden guests. He would not suffer his dinner hour to be postponed for such a trifle as the Mughal triumph. When the officers of Aurangzib appeared, he saluted them as became a King, received them courteously, and spoke to them in choice Persian. He then called for his horse and rode with them to Prince A’zam, who presented him to Aurangzib. The Great Mogul treated him with grave courtesy, as King to King, for the gallantry of his defence of Golkonda atoned for many sins of his licentious past. Then he was sent a prisoner to Daulatabad, where his brother of Bijapur was already a captive, and both their dynasties disappear from history. Aurangzib appropriated some seven millions sterling from the royal property of Golkonda.

The hero of the siege was Abd-ar-Razzak. Aurangzib

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said that had Abu-l-Hasan possessed but one more servant as loyal as this, the siege might have gone on much longer. He sent a European and a Hindu surgeon to attend to the wounded man, and rejoiced when after sixteen days he at last opened his eyes. He showered favours upon the hero’s sons, but nothing could shake the loyalty of the father. Lying on his sick bed, he said that ‘no man who had eaten the salt of Abu-l-Hasan could enter the service of Aurangzib.’ Among the universal self-seeking of the Mughal Court, such faithfulness was rare indeed, and no one honoured it more sincerely than the Emperor who had never been disloyal to his standard of duty.


65. See above, p. 141.

66. Khafi Khan, l. c., vol. vii. p. 314.

67. Khafi Khan, l. c., vol. vii. pp. 310, 311.

68. Bernier was at Golkonda in 1667, and has left on record a singular penetrating survey of the political condition of the Deccan kingdoms and their relations with the Mughals (Travels, pp. 191–198).

69. Khafi Khan, l. c., vol. vii. p. 320.

70. Khafi Khan, c., vol. vii. p. 331.

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