The Mughal Empire: Rulers, Characteristics & Hindu Influence

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has an M.A in instructional education.

The Mughal Empire practiced religious tolerance and consolidated smaller kingdoms within present-day Pakistan and India. Learn about some characteristics of the empire's culture, its rulers such as Babur and Abu Akbar, and the Hindi influences on God-ism. Updated: 11/03/2021

Religious Tolerance

Throughout history, the lands of India and Pakistan have been ruled by many differing empires and forces. Today, we'll travel back to the past, discovering one of these ruling entities as we explore the Mughal Empire.

To begin, the Mughal Empire ruled over India and Pakistan in the 16th and 17th centuries. This empire gets special kudos from history in that the Mughal rulers were Muslim, yet for most of their reign they peacefully ruled over a predominately Hindu population. In other words, the rulers were Muslim while most of the commoners were Hindu. However, and very unlike many other empires, the Muslim Mughals were surprisingly tolerant of other religions. In fact, it's recorded that they even allowed Hindus to hold senior positions within the civil government and the military.

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  • 0:08 Religious Tolerance
  • 0:53 Consolidation & Culture
  • 1:54 Babur & Humayun
  • 2:44 Akbar & God-ism
  • 3:43 Lesson Summary
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Consolidation & Culture

As an empire, the Mughals were able to consolidate the smaller kingdoms of South Asia (specifically within India and Pakistan) into one centralized government. They also succeeded in bringing Persian and Muslim culture into Hindu life. However, it must be mentioned that Hindu culture was not lost. In fact, under Mughal rule the Persian language combined with Arabic and Hindi to form the language of Urdu.

When taking into account their propensity toward religious tolerance and the way they were able to combine both Muslim and Hindu culture, I like to use some alliteration and think of them as the Great Mixing Mughals or to borrow an American term, the Melting Pot Mughals. Whichever you choose, history usually gives them a nod for their respect for the rights and cultures of those within their borders.

Keeping this key point in mind, let's fill in some history for this empire. The Mughals were descendants of the Mongol Empire. Like the Mongols, the Mughals were a military force to be reckoned with. In fact, it's asserted that they were some of the first in the region to use guns in warfare.

Babur & Humayun

Babur is often considered the first Mughal emperor. Interestingly, he was believed to be a descendant of the great Genghis Khan. Coming to power in Delhi sometime around the year 1526, Babur was a religiously tolerant leader, who mixed the cultures of the Mongols, Persians, and Hindus into one. It's even reported that he respected the Hindu practice of not butchering cows. Remembering that he was tolerant to other religions and that he was the first emperor, I think we'll be safe remembering him as Babur the Benevolent at the Base of the empire.

Unfortunately for the people of the empire, Babur's son, Humayun was a catastrophic ruler. He lost much of the lands established by Babur and was more interested in a life of frivolity and drug use than ruling. Although he did at one point try to regain some of the empire, we can remember him as Humayun the Horrible.

Akbar & God-ism

The last emperor we'll discuss is Abu Akbar. He is considered by most to be one of the greatest rulers in Asian history. Fortunately for the Mughals, he regained much of the land lost by previous emperors.

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