The story of Shah Alam II.

A Mughal emperor with a reign of almost four decades was forgotten by history. Shah Alam the Second ruled the Mughal empire in its twilight days when the sun of the Mughals was about to go down. He might not have been the last of the Mughal kings but he definitely was the last to taste the power. Mughal kings after him were nothing but puppets of the British East India company. 

Shah Alam’s story has two acts. The first act is about him trying his best to keep the Mughal empire intact. This half of his story is full of battles, some he won and some he lost. The second act is about him accepting his limitations. In the second part of his reign, he ruled on behalf of the Marathas. If he had not done that, the East India Company would have taken over the Delhi Sultanate.

This rollercoaster of life started with being born and raised in imprisonment. Fortunately, these days of captivity did not take a toll on his attitude. After his father became the king, Shah Alam earned a good name for himself as well. He took over the throne from his father when the Marathas and the Rajputs had aligned and the Mughal empire was in danger. 

With all of his army, he was able to defend only Delhi and its immediate neighbours from the Maratha takeover. In an attempt to change his fortune, Shah Alam looked east towards the region of Bengal and Odisha. He left Delhi’s throne with his son and nephews as his representatives. And marched east.

The east had been home to the East India Company. The company had slowly yet steadily been taking parts of the Bengal province. Shah Alam gathered an army and aligned with the french to fight against the British. The war between the British and Shah Alam lasted seven years. The final of which happened with the Battle of Buxar. Shah Alam took a defining defeat and surrendered. The British ripped him out of his position. Fearing a public freakout, they avoided sending him to imprisonment. So instead they house arrested him in Agra.

Six years later, the Marathas recaptured Delhi. In an effort to unite an army against the British, they escorted Shah Alam from Agra. Six years of his absence had shifted powers in the Northern India region. He had to fight wars with the Sikhs and the Jats in these years. This was the time when he decided to upgrade the Mughal Army. He had good relations with the French and imported French guns for his army.

This upgrade couldn’t save Delhi Sultanate from the Jat and Sikhs. The Jats took over the region of Agra and looted everything in their sight, including the silver doors of the Taj Mahal. The Sikhs then took over the region of Lahore and most of present-day Pakistan that were under the Mughals. At the lowest point, Shah Alam just had Delhi under him.

Shah Alam died of natural causes in the year 1806. In 1857, the 600-year-old Mughal empire collapsed for one last time. On many levels, the Mughal empire ended with Shah Alam’s reign. Shah Alam’s story is a manifestation of hope. His childhood in captivity made him an optimist. And right till the end, he thought and deed his best for the revival of the Mughal empire.

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