Nadir Shah’s Invasion of India

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Nadir Shah invasion

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You might be already familiar with Nadir Shah as an invader who plundered Delhi of its fabled gemstones and the Peacock Throne. Even if you are a newbie, know that the history associated with Nader Shah in context of India has a lot to offer. This article will be worth a read as you will learn about Nadir Shah’s invasion of India, the wealth he amassed, the massacre he caused and a lot more. So, why wait? Let’s jump into the article without any delay. 

Who Was Nadir Shah? 

  • Nadir Shah was a Persian ruler or the Shahanshah (monarch) who formed the Afsharid dynasty in 1730. He established his rule after defeating Safavid troops and capturing Esfahan (present-day Afghanistan). The extent of his influence stretched from the Black Sea, the Persian Gulf and countries like Oman, Georgia, Armenia, Pakistan, Caucasus etc.  
  • He was a military genius for which he is even referred as the “Napoleon of Persia” and the “Second Alexander”. Nadir Shah’s incomparable military tactics were applied in situations where his troops were outnumbered against their enemies. One example is the Battle of Karnal where Nadir Shah defeated the Mughals irrespective of having a comparatively smaller military force. 
  • He was also an invader who plundered India of its riches and incredible wealth. Later, he used the paramount hoardings for his personal aims and also in cancelling the taxes for three consecutive years. He was also responsible for initiating Qatl-e-aam or the large-scale murder of common men in Delhi for avenging his Afsharid troops’ deaths. 

Circumstances in India That Bolstered Nadir Shah’s Invasion 

  • The state of Mughal empire played a crucial role in Nadir Shah’s invasion of India. So, let us look at some of the reasons that provided an exclusive opportunity for Nadir Shah to invade the country: 
  • Following the death of Aurangzeb on 3 March, 1707, the once formidable Mughal empire was disintegrated and successive rulers couldn’t establish their dominance and sovereignty. The reason behind the lack of a strong foothold was that northern India under the Mughal rule being subject to constant wars and conquests.  
  • The Mughal nobles decided to break away from the allegiance to the Mughal emperor and form their own independent states after the Marathas swathed large territories of land that was under Mughal rule. The imperial court administrative power was weaker and full of corruption. 
  • The empire was rapidly declining in the 18th century and its emperor Muhammad Shah was an incapacitated ruler. Additionally, the military strength of the army was weak and an unprofessional one. 
  • However, the primary reason why Nadir Shah was eyeing Mughals’s Delhi was because the region was the richest capital of India. Just like all foreign invaders, he too harbored the single aim of plundering India and bringing colossal gains back to his kingdom in Persia. 
  • Nadir Shah wanted the Mughal ruler Muhammad Shah (1719-1748) and his governors to oust their Afghan refugees from the borders of the empire. On evading his requests and the consequent killing of an envoy sent by Nadir Shah further reaffirmed his plans of plundering Delhi. This reason was used as a means of justifying Nadir Shah’s actions in invasion and consequent overtake of the Mughal economy. 

Nadir Shah’s Conquests in India 

  • Nadir Shah crossed the Mughal territory at Kandahar and halted at Qarabagh (south of Ghazni). The governor of Ghazni on hearing Nadir Shah’s approach fled and left his kingdom at the mercy of the ruler. 
  • All the influential men of Ghazni tried to appease Nadir Shah by providing him substantial presents. They surrendered and made obeisance to the new ruler of Ghazni. Meanwhile, the Afghans of Ghorband and Bamian were also defeated by the detachment sent under Nasrullah, Nadir Shah’s son. 
  • Nadir Shah marched on towards Kabul where the city was besieged. Finally, on June 19 the Persian ruler took control of Kabul and its provincial affairs. While his stay at the place, he sent a letter and an ambassador to the Mughal ruler Muhammad Shah. The letter was not accepted and the ambassador was not allowed to leave.  
  • In response, Nadir Shah sent an envoy requesting the Mughal ruler to get rid of the escaped Afghan chieftains by denying them asylum. The reason behind withdrawing support to the Afghans would be the garrison’s hostility towards Nader Shah and their repeated conquests in India. The envoy was not received by the Mughal emperor and murdered on the way back from Jalanabad by a neighboring chieftain. 
  • Nader who was at Kabul left as he was out of supplies. After reaching Jalalabad, the Afsharid troops sacked the region to met out revenge against the murder of their envoy.
  • After the brief halt at Kabul, Nadir Shah continued his journey through India. He moved towards the Khyber Pass and reached Peshawar where Nasir Khan, the governor opposed his plans of invasion. At Lahore, the governor Zakaria Khan retained his position by offering Nader Shah a hefty sum of Rs 2 million. 
  • The army of Peshawar was in no way a suitable match against Nadir Shah’s forces. There were 20,000 ill-trained Afghans on one side and fierce veteran cavalry on the other. Consequently, with victory of Nadir Shah in the war, Peshawar too came under his administration. 
  • Nadir Shah resumed marching towards the lush plains of Punjab. By building a bridge across Indus and crossing the river Chenab, they initiated the battle of Karnal (24 February 1739) against the Mughals. Nadir Shah and his troops won the war against its rivals.  
  • Although outnumbered in the Battle of Karnal, the military tactics of Nadir Shah were strong enough to offer a severe blow against the advancing enemies. Muhammad Shah was compelled to offer the keys of the capital Delhi to its new ruler, Nadir Shah. 

Nadir Shah’s Plunder of Indian Treasury 

  • After invading Delhi in 1739, Nadir Shah fulfilled his chief aim to plunder the capital of its wealth. He raided Delhi and amassed priceless gems and jewels from the treasure. Apart from that, precious utensils, weapons, gold and silver coins and plates, fine clothes, household furniture and commodities were also seized. 
  • Nadir Shah ceded all the territories east of Indus back to the Mughals but before giving up, he ransacked Delhi and took with him fabled treasures like The Peacock Throne and its studded gemstones. 
  • The Peacock Throne, a prized possession of the Mughals was gilded and studded with precious and semi-precious gemstones like diamonds, rubies, emeralds etc. It was an important innovation that was commissioned by the Mughal ruler, Shah Jahan. It stood in the Diwan-i-Khas in the Red Fort of New Delhi. The original peacock throne was said to be dismantled by the Kurds and incorporated into the Persian Naderi Peacock Throne that is now part of the national treasury of the Central Bank of Iran. 
  • The Koh-i-Noor and the Darya-i-Noor which were the pride gemstones of the Peacock Throne, Delhi and India was lost to Nadir Shah. The Koh-I-Noor diamond, also called Mountain of Light is currently a part of the Crown of Queen Elizabeth. Despite appearing like a black hole, Koh-I-Noor is dubbed “full of life” by geologists. Darya-I-Noor, also called Sea of Light is now a part of Iranian Crown Jewels. 
  • Nearly 20,000 mules and an equal number of camels carried off the treasure trove to Persia. Other animals that accompanied the Afsharids in large numbers were elephants and horses. 
  • On his way back to Persia, Nader Shah’s tent was embroidered with precious stones like amethysts, pearls, rubies etc. The amassed wealth by Nader Shah was so huge that taxes were not levied in Iran for three consecutive years. As per the book “The History of Nader Shah” authored by James Frazer, 70 crores of wealth were mounted on animals to be taken back to Persia. 
  • It is said that Britishers would perhaps not have arrived in India soon after Nader Shah’s invasion. The story of the incredible wealth of India and the consequent plunder provided Britishers with an estimate of its colossal possessions and the inherent vulnerabilities. This fueled their ambitions to visit India and colonize consequently. 

Massacre Caused by Nadir Shah’s Army 

  • There was an increase in prices in Delhi during Afsharid rule. The city administrator decided to intervene and sent Afsharid troops to witness the situation in the markets of Paharganj. The merchants refused to lower the prices and got into a conflict with the troops. Some of the Afsharid army were assaulted and killed in the process. 
  • Further, a word just spread through the mouth that Nadir Shah was murdered by a female guard at the Red Fort. This moment became a golden opportunity for Indians to avenge themselves. Consequently, they attacked 3000 Afsharid troops on the night of 21 March 1739 . 
  • On hearing this news, Nadir Shah was infuriated and decided to take an aggressive stance against the civilians. At the behest of the emperor, Afsharid troops carried out massive killings against common people. Children and women were not even spared, 10,000 of whom were taken as slaves. 
  • The Tazkira, a book that records life events describes that people were slaughtered unhesitatingly. The streets were covered with corpses as if they were mere old leaves in a garden. Nothing was left of the town. Moreover, the two communities of Muslims and Hindus were murdered in cold blood. Families even decided to kill their women and children rather than being left alive to be exploited by the Afsharid army. 
  • Watching the large-scale brutal killing of common men, Muhammad Shah begged for mercy. After much pleadings, Nadir Shah finally relented and ordered his men to stop the blood shedding. 
  • The massacre caused by Nadir Shah is recorded in chronicles like the the Bayan-e-Waqai of Abdul Karim, Tarikh-e-Hindi of Rustam Ali, and the Tazkira of Anand Ram Mukhlis. 

The Final Thought! 

Nadir Shah not simply invaded India, he also paved the way for British rule in the country. The vulnerabilities and the loopholes of Mughal administration was exposed to the insiders as well as people across continents and countries. India which was a treasure trove lost its glamour with Nadir Shah’s invasion. His death on 19 June 1947 brought about an end to the world’s famed and ruthless invader. 

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