Persians in the Mughal Empire

Persians in the Mughal Empire

Persians were the second largest nobility of the Mughal Empire of South Asia. Throughout the history of the Delhi Sultanate and its successor the Mughal Empire, Persian technocrats, bureaucrats, soldiers, traders, scientists, architects, teachers, poets, artists, theologians and Sufis migrated and settled in South Asia.

The name Mughal is derived from the original homelands of the Timurids, the Central Asian (Turkestan) steppes once conquered by Genghis Khan and hence known as Moghulistan, "Land of Mongols". Although early Mughals spoke the Chagatai language and maintained some Turko-Mongol practices, they became essentially Persianized[1] and transferred the Persian literary and high culture[1] to South Asia, thus forming the base for the Indo-Persian culture and the Spread of Islam in South Asia.[1][2]


  • Humayun refuge in Persia 1
  • Ma’âṣer al-Omarâ 2
  • Reasons for Immigration 3
  • Mughal Emperor Akbar 4
  • Shia Muslim Dynasties in South Asia 5
    • Awadh State 5.1
  • Qizilbash 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Humayun refuge in Persia

Shah Tahmasp greets the exiled Humayun.
Shah Tahmasp I and the Mughal Emperor Humayun in Isfahan.

Mughal Emperor Humayun was defeated by Sher Shah Suri in 1540 and fled to the refuge of the powerful Safavid Empire in Iran, marching with 40 men and his wife. Shah Tahmasp welcomed the Mughal, and treated him as a royal visitor. Here Humayun went sightseeing and was amazed at the Persian artwork, military might and architecture he saw: much of this was the work of the Timurid Sultan Husayn Bayqarah and his ancestor, princess Gauhar Shad, thus he was able to admire the work of his relatives and ancestors at first hand. He was introduced to the work of the Persian miniaturists, and Kamaleddin Behzad had two of his pupils join Humayun in his court. Humayun was amazed at their work and asked if they would work for him if he were to regain the sovereignty of Hindustan and they agreed.

Shah Tahmasp provided financial aid and a large choice of cavalry to regain his Empire. Persians nobles and soldiers joined Humayun in reconquest of South Asia.

The Turkic Turani nobility tended to fade away from the political scene and the Persian nobles improved their position. During 1545-1555 A.D. a number of Persians who came in Humayun’s service were appointed to important central offices, such as diwan, wazir, and mir-saman (In charge of Imperial Palace).

Ma’âṣer al-Omarâ

Ma’âṣer al-Omarâ was written by Shah Nawaz Khan and his son, ‘Abd al-Hayy in 1780. This book contains the biographies of 738 Mughal nobles of which at least 198 or 26.8 per cent were Persians[3]

Reasons for Immigration

Most of the Persians migrated to South Asia to prosper and obtain high positions in Mughal Empire. Many were Sunni Persians who felt discriminated in Shia Safavid Empire and migrated to mostly Sunni Mughal Empire. There were also rebels and nobles who lost royal favour and migrated to Mughal Empire. The Mughals also preferred to employ foreign Muslim officials that had little or no local interests and thus were loyal to the Mughal emperor.

Mughal Emperor Akbar

The Mughals had a multi-racial and multi-religious ruling class in which non-Indians occupied a very major place. Commenting on the mansabdars listed in the Ain-i-Akbari, Moreland writes that just under 70 percent of the nobles whose origin is known were foreigners, belonging to families which had either come to South Asia with Emperor Humayun or had arrived at the court after the accession of Emperor Akbar.

Shia Muslim Dynasties in South Asia

The Shia Muslims, especially Ithna ashariyya school, has deep rooted influence in present and history of South Asia from North to South with various Shia Muslim dynasties ruling South Asian provinces from time to time. Most of these kingdoms were established by Persian Shias.

Few prominent ones of the Indian Shia Muslim dynasties are as follows:

  • Bidar Sultanate (1489–1619 AD)

Persia. He joined the service of the Bahmani sultan Muhammad Shah III. He started his career as a Sar-Naubat but later became the Mir-Jumla (prime minister) of the Bahmani sultanate.

  • Qutb Shahi dynasty (1518–1687 AD)

The Qutb Shahi dynasty was a Turkic dynasty (whose members were also called the Qutub Shahis). They were the ruling family of the kingdom of Golconda in southern India. They were Shia Muslims and belonged to Kara Koyunlu of Persia.

  • Adil Shahi dynasty (1527–1686 AD)

The Adil Shahi dynasty ruled the Sultanate of Bijapur in the Western area of the Deccan region of Southern India from 1490 to 1686. Bijapur had been a province of the Bahmani Sultanate (1347–1518), before its political decline in the last quarter of the 15th century and eventual break-up in 1518. The Bijapur Sultanate was absorbed into the Mughal Empire on 12 September 1686, after its conquest by the Emperor Aurangzeb.[4]

  • Nawab of Awadh (1722–1858 AD)

Of all the Muslim states and dependencies of the Mughal empire, Awadh had the newest royal family, the Nawabs of Awadh. They were descended from a Persian adventurer called Sa'adat Khan, originally from Khurasan in Persia.

  • Najafi Nawabs of Bengal (1757–1880)

The Persian Najafi Dynasty of Nawabs of Bengal were Sayyids and were descendants of Prophet Muhammad through Al Imam Hasan ibn Ali, ruling from 1757 until 1880.

  • Nawab of Rampur

Rampur, former princely state of British India. Previously ruled by Persian Shiite Muslim Nawabs of Rampur, it was incorporated into the state of Uttar Pradesh in 1949.

Awadh State

The most important Shia state in South Asia was established by Persian originally from Khurasan in Persia around 1722 AD with Faizabad as its capital and Sadat Ali Khan as its first Nawab. Awadh or Avadh is also known in various British historical texts as Oudh.


The Qizilbash soldiers and officials settled in modern Pakistan during Mughal Emperor Humayun's return from exile in Safavid Persia and restoration of Mughal Empire. Emperor Humayun lost his South Asian territories to the Pashtun noble, Sher Shah Suri, and, with Persian aid, regained them 15 years later in 1555 AD.

See also


  1. ^ a b c Robert L. Canfield, Turko-Persia in historical perspective, Cambridge University Press, 1991. pg 20: "The Mughals – Persianized Turks who invaded from Central Asia and claimed descent from both Timur and Genghis – strengthened the Persianate culture of Muslim India"
  2. ^ Frances Pritchett. "part2_10". Retrieved 2012-07-06. 
  3. ^ Emigration of Iranian Elites to India during the 16-18th centuries
  4. ^ The Peacock Throne by Waldemar Hansen. ISBN 978-81-208-0225-4. Page 468.

External links

  • Emigration of Iranian Elites to India during the 16-18th centuries
  • Role of Persians at the Mughal Court:A Historical study, during 1526 to 1707 AD
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