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The Surrender of Kandahar, a miniature painting from the Padshahnama depicting Persians surrendering keys to the city to Kilij Khan in 1638

December 31, 1637
Mirza Firuz Shah
Shah Jahan 1627–1658




The Safavids had territorial claims over Kandahar since the reign of Shah Tahmasp. The overthrow of Humayun, the Mughal Emperor, is known to have gained the support of Shah Tahmasp in return for his permission to allow the Safavids to capture Kandahar. Subsequently, conflicts emerged in the region during the reign of another Mughal emperor, Jahangir. Since 1638, when the Kurdish turncoat Ali Mardan Khan handed Kandahar over to Shah Jahan, both Kabul and Kandahar were under Mughal control. It was considered vital for the Mughal empire that the twin 'gateway-cities' to Hindustan, i.e. Kabul and Kandahar, be brought under Mughal rule, for two primary reasons. Firstly, the Mughal Empire in India was often viewed by them as a painfully small compensation for the loss of their ancient capital – Samarkand – which they had been driven out of by the Uzbeks. Beyond the internal administrative agendas, the Mughals always kept it a priority to expand the western frontier of the empire in the sentiment of ¬reconquista¬. Secondly, Central Asian trade provided the Mughals with warhorses, without which not only the military forces would be incapacitated, but could also potentially spark tribal revolts and foreign invasions. Kandahar in particular was at the crossroads of a number of major commercial trade routes in Central Asia. The two cities were thus the subject of deep strategic concern. In February 1646, Shah Jahan dispatched an army of 60,000 to Kabul, and thence to Badakshan and Balkh, with his son Murad Baksh as the commander-in-chief. This was done in support of Nazr Muhammad and his son, Abd al-Aziz, against the Toqai-Timurid ruler of Balkh. However, Nazr Muhammad and Abd al-Aziz betrayed the Mughals after the end of the campaign, and fled to Isfahan. The subsequent Balkh campaign in 1647 against them was led by Aurangzeb, and cost the Mughal empire 20 million rupees along with the recently acquired Balkh and Badakshan. In 1639, the armies of Shah Safi of Persia captured Bamyan and it appeared that they would attack Kandahar next. Shah Jahan, assisted by Kamran Khanand Malik Maghdood, had marched on Kandahar and negotiated the surrender from the Persian commander, Ali Mardan Khan, in 1638. He expected the Persians to attempt to regain the city soon and so he ordered that the wall be repaired rapidly while a large Mughal army based in Kabul protected the area. When no Persian attack came, in 1646 the Emperor sent his son, Murad Baksh, to invade Uzbek-controlled Badakhshan. In the following year, Aurangzeb, another son, routed an Uzbek force outside of Balkh and captured the city. Though victorious in the field, the Mughals were unable to secure the conquered territories and Shah Jahan was forced to recall his armies from Badakhshan.


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Ismail Mazari

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Very good information.


The Mughal Images immediately took a much greater interest in realistic portraiture than was typical of Persian miniatures. Animals and plants were the main subject of many miniatures for albums and were more realistically depicted. To upload your images click here.

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