Invasion of Nadir Shah: History, Massacre and Cause

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Invasion of Nadir Shah

The Invasion of Nadir Shah took place in 1739 which was led by the powerful and ambitious Persian conqueror Nadir Shah Afshar. He was the founder of the Afshar dynasty and marched towards Northern India to take control, this invasion not only inflicted a heavy blow on the Mughal Empire but also left a lasting impact on the political and cultural landscape of the Indian subcontinent. In this article, we will delve into the causes and consequences of this invasion, uncovering the historical significance of Nadir Shah’s conquest.

Who was Nadir Shah?

Nadir Shah was an Iranian and the Shahanshah of the Persian Empire and belonged to the Afghan Dynasty. His military tacics and brilliance made him the greatest ruler of Persia. However, he is attributed to be a brutal and ruthless king of all times. He rules Iran(Persia) from 1736 to 1747, until his assassination due to a rebellion.

He invaded India in 1738-1739 and conquered Lahore, Ghazni and Kabul, and in the same year on 13th February, he defeated the mighty army of the Mughal empire at the Battle of Karnal. 

Nadir Shah Afshar

What was the History of the Invasion?

In its prime, the empire of Shah extended from the Black Sea to the Persian Gulf, covering present-day nations such as Pakistan, Oman, Armenia, and Georgia. Shah frequently battled with Afghan warlords, and some defeated warlords sought refuge in the Mughal Empire. 

Shah requested that the Mughal governors deliver these warlords to him, but this request was largely ignored. At the court of Delhi, a Persian ambassador was also humiliated and degraded and the Mughal Court halted any ambassadorial exchanges with the Persian Royal Court, which offended Nadir Shah. This led to Shah’s invasion of the Mughal Empire, which was led by Emperor Muhammad Shah at the time. The Mughal Empire was already in decline and Shah and his army easily defeated the frontier governors. 

The governor of Lahore submitted to the Shah and paid him a large sum of money. To stop Shah from entering Delhi, Muhammad Shah led a large force of around 300000 troops, 2000 elephants and 3000 guns to confront the Persian army. But his army ultimately failed in front of Nadir Shah. 

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Causes of the Invasion of Nadir Shah

Some of the main causes behind the invasion of Nadir Shah were – 

  1. Mughal Empire in Decline:  At the time of Nadir Shah’s invasion, the Mughal Empire had already been weakened by years of internal conflicts, political instability, and the rise of regional powers. The empire, which once boasted unparalleled grandeur and power, was crumbling under the weight of corruption and mismanagement. This power vacuum presented an enticing opportunity for the ambitious Nadir Shah to expand his empire.
  1. Economic Motives: Nadir Shah was driven by a desire for wealth and riches. Nadir Shah aimed to plunder the abundant treasures of the Mughals, including their famed jewels, artefacts and precious metals. He looted nearly 600 million rupees worth of jewellery, 10 million rupees of gold and 600 million worth of cash. He also had 200 carpenters, 100 stone-cutters, and 7000 artisans in his service and also had thousands of elephants, camels and horses in his cavalry.
  1. Geopolitical Rivalries: In addition to economic motives, Nadir Shah’s invasion was also fueled by ongoing geopolitical rivalries in the region. The Mughal Empire and the Persian Empire had a long history of conflict and competition over territorial control. Nadir Shah saw the weakened Mughal Empire as an opportunity to assert his dominance and establish his supremacy in the region.

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The Invasion

  1. Battle of Karnal (1739)

The invasion of Nadir Shah reached its climax with the Battle of Karnal in 1739. The Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah, ill-prepared and underestimating Nadir Shah’s military might, suffered a resounding defeat. The Mughal forces were decimated, and Muhammad Shah was taken captive This humiliating event gave an alternative to the Mughal Emperor to pay the fine and flee to Persia.

  1. Sack of Delhi

Following the Battle of Karnal, Nadir Shah marched triumphantly towards Delhi, the Mughal capital. In a brutal display of power and conquest, he ordered the infamous sack of Delhi. The city was looted, its residents subjected to violence and atrocities, and countless treasures of the Mughal Empire were seized. Some historians have calculated that an estimated 0.2 million Delhi citizens were pillaged and slaughtered on 11th March 1739.

  1. The Peacock Throne

Among the spoils of war was the legendary Peacock Throne, a magnificent symbol of the Mughal power built by Aurangzeb. Nadir Shah seized this exquisite throne along with insurmountable treasures that had been accumulated over generations.

Nadir Shah at the Sack of Delhi

Historical Significance

The invasion of Nadir Shah not only marked the decline and downfall of the Mughal Empire but also altered the region’s political and cultural scenario.

  1. Shift in Power Dynamics: The invasion reshuffled the power dynamics in the Indian subcontinent. The Mughal Empire lost its hegemonic control and regional powers such as the Marathas, Sikhs, and later the British emerged and filled the political void left by the weakened Mughals. 
  1. Loss of Cultural Artifacts: Plundering of the Mughal Empire’s treasures resulted in the loss of invaluable cultural artefacts. Many iconic artefacts, including the Koh-i-Noor diamond and the Peacock Throne, were looted by Nadir Shah and later found their way into different parts of the world. 
  1. British Colonial Rule: The invasion of Nadir Shah, coupled with the subsequent decline of the Mughal Empire, set the stage for the eventual establishment of British colonial rule in India. As the Mughals weakened, the British East India Company gained a foothold which gradually expanded its control and influence over the subcontinent. The invasion indirectly paved the way for British domination.
The Peacock Throne

In conclusion, the invasion of Nadir Shah exposed the vulnerabilities of the once-mighty empire and accelerated its decline. It also sowed deep-rooted animosity and mistrust between the Persian and Indian populations in the past. The greed for power, wealth, and territorial expansion led to the ruthless conquest of vast territories. The event not only shattered the illusions of Mughal invincibility but also paved the way for significant geopolitical and cultural transformations in the Indian Subcontinent region. 

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