Mughal court etiquettes, manners, and ceremonies which were regulated during the early stage of the Mughal era continued to be observed during the later period. However, the glory of the court which depended on extensive political power and unlimited resources of the empire diminished immensely due to the political weakness of the emperor and the emptiness of his treasury. Though the daily routine was religiously followed as it was during Akbar or Shahjahan's rule, it appeared more of a theatre than the real court of the great Mughals.

As the Mughal dynasty declined, the Red Fort, which was the seat of the later Mughals, lost its past glory and started to decay because emperors had no money to repair it. The Hall of Public Audience became a deserted and haunting place. The Hall of Private Audience was the only place where the emperor held his court. As Nadir Shah took away the famous Peacock throne, of Saharan, it was replaced with a replica which was decorated with fake pearls and diamonds. It was indeed a mockery of the past grandeur. Though robes of honour, jewellery, weapons, horses and elephants were still awarded to courtiers, it was not in appreciation of their services but as a result of their flattery of the emperor. The quality of the robe of honour and other gifts also deteriorated. The same happened in case of royal processions. They no longer left an impression of the emperor's power and wealth; rather they became a cheap show of decadence.

The position of the Mughal emperor suffered initially as a result of the Marhatta occupation of Delhi and then due to the rule of The East India Company. He became a puppet and his source of income was the stipend, which was granted to him by these two powers. Though outwardly both showed respect to him, the real power was in their hands.

In the beginning, the East India Company and its officers observed the etiquettes of the Mughal court and whenever they visited the court they performed all the required rituals to show their obedience. Like other courtiers, they presented nazar or offering to the emperor, which traditionally signified loyalty of a person to the higher authority and in return received the robe of honour in appreciation of their services. However, as the political power of the Company increased, its officials started to avoid paying proper homage to the emperor and sometimes violated the usual etiquettes in order to show their independence and arrogance.

The British Resident of Delhi had parallel authority which had more power than the Emperor. He asserted his authority by banning the playing of kettledrum which announced the movement of the Emperor. He refused to present nazar, which indicated his subordinate position. He told the emperor that he should not be referred to as farzand-i-Arjumand or 'beloved son', a title which was used in official correspondence. The word fidvi-i-khass or 'your devotee' was expunged from the seal of the Governor General. Lastly, Bahadur Shah Zafar was asked to vacate the Red Fort. His heir apparent was ready to accept this condition. The main purpose of the Company, to deprive the Mughal Emperor from using the Red Fort, was that it was a symbol of the past glory of the Mughal Empire. By asking the Emperor to vacate the Fort they wanted to convey a message to the people of India that they should not look up to the Fort as a bastion of power and a symbol of loyalty.

During the rule of Akbar, when Warren Hastings, Governor General of the Company, wanted to visit the court he asked that he should be offered a chair and exempted from presenting nazar. The Emperor accepted it but his mother, after learning of these conditions, reprimanded her son and told him not to violate the old traditions of royalty. Hastings cancelled his visit in protest. It is said that he encouraged Ghaziuddin Haider, the ruler of Awadh to assume the title of King in order to downgrade the status of the Mughal Emperor.

The Mughal court changed its policy in 1826 when Lord Amherst, Governor General, visited the Emperor; he was offered a chair on the left side of the throne. He did not present any nazar to the emperor, but accepted gifts which were awarded to him.

The Mughal court suffered a great shock when in 1857 rebel soldiers stormed the Fort to make Lord Amherst their leader. They were not accustomed to the centuries old traditions of how to pay homage and how to appear before the emperor. They violated all etiquettes and rituals and addressed the Emperor as 'Old Man'.

The year 1857 not only ended the Mughal dynasty, but also swept away the royal apparatus of the Mughal court.

Opinion

Editorial

Afghan puzzle
Updated 28 May, 2024

Afghan puzzle

Unless these elements are neutralised, it will not be possible to have the upper hand over terrorist groups.
Attacking minorities
28 May, 2024

Attacking minorities

WHILE Pakistan has watched many perish in the cauldron of sacrilege, the state has done little to turn down the...
Persistent scourge
28 May, 2024

Persistent scourge

THE challenge of polio in Pakistan has reached a new nadir, drawing grave concerns from the Technical Advisory Group...
Mercury rising
Updated 27 May, 2024

Mercury rising

Each of the country's leaders is equally responsible for the deep pit Pakistan seems to have fallen into.
Antibiotic overuse
27 May, 2024

Antibiotic overuse

ANTIMICROBIAL resistance is an escalating crisis claiming some 700,000 lives annually in Pakistan. It is the third...
World Cup team
27 May, 2024

World Cup team

PAKISTAN waited until the very end to name their T20 World Cup squad. Even then, there was last-minute drama. Four...