Shah Alam II

Shah Alam II

Infobox Monarch

name =His Majesty Abdu'llah Jalal ud-din Abu'l Muzaffar Ham ud-din Muhammad 'Ali Gauhar Shah-i-'Alam II Sahib-i-Qiran Padshah Ghazi, Emperor of India
title =Emperor of Mughal Empire
full name ='Abdu'llah Jalal ud-din Abu'l Muzaffar Ham ud-din Muhammad 'Ali Gauhar Shah-i-'Alam II
coronation =24 December 1759
date of birth =25 June 1728
place of birth =Delhi
date of death =19 November 1806 (age 78)
place of death =Red Fort, Delhi
place of burial =Red Fort, Delhi
reign =24 December 1759-19 November 1806
predecessor= Shah Jahan III
successor =Akbar Shah II
spouse 1 =Nawab Taj Mahal Begum Sahiba
father =Alamgir II
mother =Nawab Zinat Mahal Sahiba
issue =Over 50 sons and daughters
dynasty =Timurid

Shah Alam II (1728–1806) also known as Ali Gauhar was a Mughal emperor of India. He inherited the throne from his father, Alamgir II as Shah Alam II (1761-1805).

Escape from Delhi

Prince Ali Gauhar, afterwards Emperor Shah Alam II, had been the heir apparent of his father, Emperor Azizuddin Alamgir II. Alamgir's unscrupulous minister (Wazir), Ghaziuddin, had completely dominated the emperor and kept Ali Gauhar under surveillance. After an escape from Delhi, Ali Gauhar appeared in the eastern provinces in 1759, hoping to strengthen his position by gaining control over Bengal, Bihar and Orissa.

Battle of Buxar

The political disorders in Bengal and the unpopularity of Mir Jafar raised high hopes in his mind. Mir Jafar was entirely dependent upon British support for maintaining himself on the throne. Shah Alam also asked for British help, but Robert Clive chose to continue with Mir Jafar. Shah Alam's forces were defeated at Buxar in 1764 and driven back by the British.

Further intrigues of the Wazir at Delhi compelled the prince to seek the protection of the British and ask for a sum of money for his subsistence, and offer, in return, to withdraw from the province. Clive sent about a thousand Pounds, and Shah Alam left Bengal and took up residence in Allahabad where he became a pensioner of the British state .

Loss of Bengal

Thus, the Wazir deprived Shah Alam of the title of Subahdar of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. However, upon the assassination of his father by Ghaziuddin in 1759, the prince proclaimed himself Emperor, assuming the title of Shah Alam II. The new Mughal emperor, the nominal suzerain of Mir Jafar and the theoretical overlord of the company, invaded Bihar. He was defeated by a British force, but entered into friendly relations with his conquerors. The British forces escorted him to Patna. Here the new Nawab Mir Qasim waited on him. Mir Qasim had his investiture as Subahdar of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, and agreed to pay an annual revenue of 2.4 million Rupees. Shah Alam was under the shelter of the nawab of Awadh from 1761 until the Battle of Buxar, in 1764.

Diwani rights

Soon after the Battle of Buxar, Shah Alam, a sovereign who had just been defeated by the British troops and was in fact a homeless fugitive, sought the protection of the English. By the Treaty of Allahabad (1765) Shah Alam granted the diwani (right to collect revenue) of Bengal (which included Bihar and Orissa) to the English East India Company in return for an annual tribute of 2.6 million rupees. The company further secured for him the districts of Kora and Allahabad.

Return to Delhi

Shah Alam took up residence at Allahabad and no doubt could have passed his life peacefully there. But he wished to go back to Delhi to restore the bygone glories of the great Mughals. An opportunity came when the Marathas, having occupied Delhi, invited him there to occupy the throne of his forefathers. The Marathas had acknowledged that they were servants of the emperor. Shah Alam left Allahabad in May 1771 and in December reached Delhi. He had consulted the British and they had advised him not to trust the Marathas. The emperor resided in the fort of Allahabad for six years as a virtual prisoner of the English. Warren Hastings who had been appointed Governor of Bengal in 1772 discontinued the tribute of 2.6 million Rupees and also made over the districts of Allahabad and Kora to the Nawab of Oudh. These measures amounted to a repudiation of the company's vassalage as diwan and the annexation of Bengal. Shah Alam then left for Delhi with a small force trained on the European model, under the command of his able general, Mirza Najaf Khan. He arrived there in December 1772 and sought to restore some of the glories of the Mughal empire.

Reform of Mughal Army

One of his first acts was to strengthen and raise an army capable of enforcing the diktat of the Mughal state. Once the army was ready it invaded the Rohillas with Marhatta help to exact revenue from them. The army then marched south of Delhi against the troublesome Jats, defeating them and capturing the lucrative revenue bearing district of Agra along with the fort. The revenue from Agra permitted the Mughal army to pay regular imperial salaries rather than living in arrears as had become the trend in the latter half of the 18th century. However times were troubled and the Mughal state was surrounded by enemies on every side.

ikh raids

Trouble with the Sikhs was endless; they raided as far as Delhi practically every year for plunder. They entered Delhi three times in 11 years from 1772 to 1783 -- in 1772, 1778 and 1783 with underhand help from the then wazirs of Shah Alam II. There was ongoing warfare with the Sikhs who were marauding in eastern Punjab and plundering the Rohilla, Mewar (Rajput) and Jat lands. During Shah Alam's reign the Sikhs fought not just with the Mughals, but with the Marhattas, Rajputs, and Rohillas.

The Marathas took Delhi in 1772 before Shah Alam arrived. Mirza Najaf Khan had restored a sense of order to the Mughal finances and administration. In 1777 Mirza Najaf Khan decisively defeated Zabita Khan's forces and repelled the Sikhs.

In 1778, after a Sikh incursion into Delhi, Shah Alam ordered their chastisement. His corrupt wazir, Abdul Ahid Khan — known to us by his title of Nawab Majad-ud-daulah --- marched alongside the Crown Prince with 20,000 Mughal troops against the Sikh forces. On payment of several bribes he colluded with them which led to the defeat of the Mughal army at Muzzaffargarh. Much like Mir Jafar before him, the wazir removed the bulk of the army and left the much reduced Mughal forces of 5,000 to 6,000 soldiers to fight the numerically larger Sikh force. The result was a fighting retreat back to Mughal lines.


After this defeat, Nawab Majad-ud-daulah was taken into custody by the crown prince and Shah Alam II recalled Mirza Najaf Khan. This led to the wazir's arrest. The traitor was imprisoned and a sum of Rs 2million in stolen revenue recovered from him. It was Shah Alam's poor judgement and vacillation that led to his own downfall. Mirza Najaf Khan had given the Mughal state breathing space by having a powerful, well managed army in its own right. In 1779 the Mughal army decisively defeated Zabita Khan and his Sikh allies, who --- losing 5,000 men and their leader --- did not return in the lifetime of Mirza Najaf Khan. Unfortunately upon the general's death, Shah Alam's bad judgement prevailed. The dead man's nephew, Mirza Shaffi whose valour had been proven, was not appointed commander in chief. Shah Alam instead appointed worthless individuals whose loyalty and record were questionable at best. They were soon quarrelling over petty matters. Even the corrupt and treasonous ex-wazir Nawab Majad-ud-daulah was restored to his former office. This man then proceeded to practice policies both corrupt and destructive towards the Mughal realm.

Nawab Majad-ud-daulah was followed by a known enemy of the Mughals, the Afghan Rohilla, Ghulam Qadir with his Sikh allies as wazir. Petty, avaricious and insane the Afghan Rohilla took advantage of Mahadaji Scindia's temporary evacuation of Delhi to ravage the palaces in search of the Mughal treasure rumoured to be worth Rs 250 million. Unable to locate even a fraction of that sum, he blinded Shah Alam in 1788. Scindia, at the head of Maratha and Jat troops, came to the Emperor's rescue and chased down the fleeing Ghulam Qadir whose body was tortured and mutilated as an example. Shah Alam, who for a short period had been a great king, was now a mere shadow of his former self. The power of his realm had been reduced to the red fort and his Mughal army -- so formidable less than half a decade a back --- no longer even in existence.

Arrival of British troops

The French threat in Europe and its possible repercussions in India caused the British to strive to regain the custody of Shah Alam. The British feared that the French military officers might overthrow Maratha power and use the authority of the Mughal emperor to further French ambition in India. After the Battle of Delhi,on September 14, 1803 British troops entered Delhi and Shah Alam, a blind old man, seated under a tattered canopy, came under British protection. The Mughal emperor no longer had the military power to enforce his will, but he commanded respect as a dignified member of the House of Timur in the length and breadth of the country. The nawabs and subahdars still sought formal sanction of the emperor on their accession and valued the titles he bestowed upon them. They struck coins and read the Khutba (Friday sermons) in his name. The British, not yet strong enough to claim sovereignty on their own, kept Shah Alam as a puppet until his death in 1805.

His grave lies, next to the dargah of 13th century, Sufi saint, Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki at Mehrauli, in a marble enclosure, along with that of Bahadur Shah I (also known as Shah Alam I), and Akbar II.


* [ Shah Alam II (1728-1806)]
* [ The Fall of the Moghul Empire of Hindustan - World Wide School]
* [ Marathas and the English Company 1707-1800]

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