This outward demonstration of faith has been a part of the spread of Sikhism through the centuries.

Mughal India

In 1526, Turkish and Mongol armies again poured through mountain passes into India. At their head rode Babur (BAH bur), who claimed descent from Genghis Khan and Tamerlane. Babur was a military genius, a poet, and the author of a detailed book of memoirs.

Babur Founds the Mughal Dynasty

Just north of Delhi, Babur met a huge army led by the sultan Ibrahim. “I placed my foot in the stirrup of resolution and my hands on the reins of confidence in God,” recalled Babur. His force was small but had cannons, which he put to good use.

In little time, Babur swept away the remnants of the Delhi sultanate and set up the Mughal dynasty, which ruled from 1526 to 1857. (Mughal is the Persian word for “Mongol.”) Babur and his heirs conquered an empire that stretched from the Himalayas to the Deccan Plateau.

Photo of the Taj Mahal from the front.

An architectural masterpiece, the Taj Mahal is an enduring symbol of the glory of the Mughal empire and of India itself.

The chief builder of the Mughal empire was Babur's grandson Akbar. During his long reign, from 1556 to 1605, he created a strong central government and earned the title Akbar the Great.

Akbar the Great

Akbar was a leader of unusual abilities. Although a Muslim, he won the support of Hindu subjects through his policy of tolerance. He opened government jobs to Hindus of all castes and treated Hindu princes as his partners in ruling the vast empire. Akbar ended the tax on non-Muslims, and he married a Hindu princess.

Akbar could not read or write, but he consulted leaders of many faiths, including Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and Christians. Like the early Indian leader Asoka, he hoped to promote religious harmony through tolerance. By recognizing India's diversity, Akbar placed Mughal power on a firm footing.

Akbar strengthened his empire in other ways as well. To improve government, he used paid officials in place of hereditary officeholders. He modernized the army, encouraged international trade, standardized weights and measures, and introduced land reforms.

Akbar's Heirs

Akbar's son Jahangir (juh HAHN geer) was a weaker ruler than his father. He left most details of government in the hands of his wife, Nur Jahan. Fortunately, she was an able leader whose shrewd political judgment was matched only by her love of poetry and royal sports. Nur Jahan was one of the most powerful women in Indian history until the 1900s.

The high point of Mughal literature, art, and architecture came with the reign of Shah Jahan, Akbar's grandson. When his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, died at age 39 after having borne 14 children, Shah Jahan was distraught. “Empire has no sweetness,” he cried, “life itself has no relish left for me now.”

Taj Mahal

To honor his favorite wife, Shah Jahan ordered the building of a magnificent tomb, the Taj Mahal (tahzh muh HAHL). Designed by a Persian architect, it has spectacular white domes and graceful minarets mirrored in clear blue reflecting pools. Verses from the Quran adorn its walls, and pleasant gardens surround the entire structure. The Taj Mahal stands as perhaps the greatest monument of the Mughal empire.

Shah Jahan planned to build a twin structure to the Taj Mahal as a tomb for himself. However, before he could do so, his son Aurangzeb usurped the throne in 1658. Shah Jahan was kept imprisoned until he died several years later.

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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments