Shāh ʿĀlam II

Shāh ʿĀlam II

▪ Mughal emperor
original name ʿalī Gauhar
born June 15, 1728, Delhi, India
died Nov. 10, 1806, Delhi

      nominal Mughal emperor of India from 1759 to 1806.

      Son of the emperor ʿĀlamgīr II, he was forced to flee Delhi in 1758 by the minister ʿImād-ul-Mulk, who kept the emperor a virtual prisoner. He took refuge with Shujāʿ-ud-Dawlah, nawab of Oudh, and after his father's assassination in 1759 he proclaimed himself emperor. With the intention of seeking to capture Delhi, he demanded tribute from Bihār and Bengal and thereby came into conflict with the East India Company. After Shujāʿ-ud-Dawlah's defeat at Buxar (in Bihār state) in 1764, however, Shāh ʿĀlam became the company's pensioner, in return for which he legalized the company's positions in Bengal, Bihār, and Orissa (1765) by granting the right to collect revenue. Comfortably installed at the city of Allahābād, he sought Delhi, and in 1771 an agreement with the Marāthā people of western India returned it to him. During 1772–82 his minister, Najaf Khān, asserted imperial authority over the Delhi territory from the Sutlej to the Chambal rivers and from the state of Jaipur to the Ganges River. In 1788, however, the chief of the Rohillas (warlike Afghan tribes settled in India), Ghulām Qādir, seized Delhi and, enraged at his failure to find treasure, blinded Shāh ʿĀlam.

      Shāh ʿĀlam spent his last years under the protection of the Marāthā chief, Sindhia, and, after the Second Marāthā War (1803–05), of the British. With power only inside his palace, he saved more than a million rupees in his treasury. He was called “king of Delhi” by the British, who maintained him out of sentiment and issued coins bearing his name to continue the charade for 30 years after his death.

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Universalium. 2010.

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