Muhammad Shah Rangeela was the Mughal Emperor who ascended to the Peacock Throne in 1719 which he occupied till his death in 1748. His name was Roshan Akhtar and was the grandson of Bahadur Shah 1. He was born in 1702 at Fatehpur Sikri and was just 17 years old when the crown was placed on his head. His reign was the reign of decadence of the Mughal Empire as well as the degeneration of the Muslim society in India. His pleasure loving and merry-making pursuits expedited the process of downfall of the empire. His entire reign was highly eventful right from his accession to the termination on his death.
Circumstances leading to his accession were very tumultuous. The real tumult was being engineered and controlled by the then king-makers ‘Syed Brothers’. Syed brothers dethroned Farrukh Siyar, the Mughal Emperor and imprisoned him who was also blinded by them. He was later executed after his cousin Rafiud Darjat was made the emperor. Darjat was very feeble and had a moth-eaten body that could not last long and died only after a few months. After his death, his cousin Roshan Akhtar was made the emperor who is popularly known as Muhammad Shah Rangeela in history.
Muhammad Shah Rangeela was a very handsome and good looking person. He was also very intelligent and witty. He never tried to behave independently as long as Syed brothers lived. He was a man of his age who really understood the limitations and strengths. Syed brothers placed him under strict check that made him resolute to get rid of them. Therefore, with the help of Nizam-ul-mulk, he got rid of them in 1722. Nizam-ul-mulk was appointed as Vazir but soon differences cropped up between the two which made Nizam retire to Deccan. There he conspired with Marathas and defeated the governor of Deccan. Having defeated the governor, he became an independent ruler of the newly created independent state of Hyderabad in 1725.
The reign of Muhammad Shah Rangeela was the period in which the process of degeneration of the empire got inception in the right earnest. This period witnessed the rise of many independent and semi independent states like Bengal, Oudh, and South India and breaking away of Kabul. Similarly, splinters groups got strength and motivation from the growing weakness of the tottering Mughal Empire. Marathas started a long war with the mughals known as Maratha-Mughal war 1725-1763 that proved a death knell. In Punjab also Sikh carved out an independent territory by joining hands with Marathas. Marathas overwhelmed Mughals and even entered Delhi in 1738 which Baji Rao agreed to leave only after Muhammad Shah committed favorable terms to him.
Another event of great significance was the invasion of Nadir Shah in 1739. Earlier during the Persian civil war Nizam’s suggestion was turned down by Rangeela to help Safavidis because his policy was that of peaceful withdrawal owing to limited available resources. The Mughal army was in complete disarray. As a result, when Nadir shah invaded India he was able to defeat Mughal army quite easily in the battle of karnal that was followed by unprecedented looting and plundering of Delhi. Nadir Shah took away the treasure as well as the Peacock Throne with him. He left Mughal Empire impotent and vulnerable to complete decomposition. It could not recover the lost glory and power. These conditions instigated Ahmed shah Abdali to invade India in 1748 but he was checked at Sirhind. However, this accomplishment could not last long with Muhammad Shah who soon passed away after this.
Muhammad Shah trusted neither nobles nor religious elite who had replaced nobility during the reign of Aurangzeb. His soul had thrived on wine, music and poetry to the great dislike of religious elite. Therefore, he created new elite known as Intellectual elite who were the men of art and literature. Such people were already present at the Mughal court but were regarded as mere entertainer but now their status was enhanced. Muhammad Shah founded the culture of spending time in writing or listening to poetry that later on became the emblem of the Indian Muslim society. He created a Delhi that was the city of culture marked by easy going attitude with high values placed on etiquettes and courtesy. In this period Urdu language was developed and it replaced Persian. Urdu was earlier the language of commoners but now it became the language of the elite.