|The Struggle for Sea Power|
|by M. B. Synge|
|Book IV of the Story of the Worlds series. Focuses on the age of empire and world colonization. The histories of European colonies in America, Australia, South Africa, and India are related. Also covered are the Revolution in America, the French Revolution, and campaigns of Napoleon. Ages 12-18 |
THE STORY OF THE GREAT MOGUL
"Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet."
 THE wonderful story of England's conquest of India reads, even to-day, like some fairy legend of the Old World.
It is the story of how one small island, away in the Northern seas, conquered an empire ten times its own size,
at a distance of 6000 miles. In the ages of long ago, when the Egyptians were building their pyramids, when the
Phœnicians were sailing to the Pillars of Hercules, when the Greeks were adorning Athens and the Romans were
spreading their empire far and wide, this England was still sleeping on the waves of the boundless sea.
It was not till after the Roman Empire had fallen, not till the Portuguese had found their way across the Sea
of Darkness to India, not till the
 Spaniards had discovered the New World, that England awoke to a sense of the great possibilities that lay
before her. Slowly and surely, from this time onwards, she stretched forth her arms over the broad seas that
had once been her barriers, until, by her untiring energy, she won for herself an empire "on which the sun
Her first great conquest was that of India or Hindostan—the land of the Hindoos. It is a country cut off from
Asia by a lofty range of mountains known as the Hima-laya, or snow abode. Here are some of the highest peaks in
the world, never scaled by man. Here, too, rise the largest rivers in India—the Indus and the Ganges, on which
most of the large towns are built. Most of the country lies within the tropics. Hence it is a land of wondrous
starlight and moonlight, a land of whirlwind and tempest, of pitiless sun and scorching heat. Here to-day, as
of old, are men with dark faces and long beards, dressed in turbans and flowing robes—men for the most part
Mohammedans, praying at intervals throughout the day, with their faces toward Mecca.
At the time that Alexander the Great
entered India,—327 years before the birth of Christ,—the land was parcelled out into a number of small
kingdoms, each under the government of its own Raja. Each Raja had a council known as the Durbar. When a Raja
conquered other Rajas he
 was known as a Maha-raja or Great Raja, and all these words are used in India to-day.
In the sixteenth century a race of Mongols or Moguls swept into India from Central Asia and founded an empire
in the north. Marco Polo
had heard a great deal about these Mongols when he was at the court of the Great Khan. The first of the Mogul
emperors was called Baber, or the Tiger; but he was succeeded by a yet more famous grandson called Akbar, whose
power is spoken of still in India to-day. Akbar added to the Mogul Empire until it became the most extensive
and splendid empire in the world. In no European kingdom was so large a population subject to a single ruler,
or so large a revenue poured into the treasury. The beauty and magnificence of the buildings, the huge retinues
and gorgeous decorations, dazzled the
eyes of those accustomed to the pomps of Versailles.
THE GREAT MOGUL.
But under the Great Mogul Aurangzeb, the "Conqueror of the Universe," the empire reached the height of its
glory. He had usurped the throne, put his father into prison, and murdered his three brothers. His crown was
uneasy, but secure. At Delhi he held his magnificent court. Here was the palace of the Great Mogul, built on
the river Jumna, a tributary of the Ganges. The magnificent gateway of the palace was guarded by two huge
elephants of stone, each bearing the
 colossal statue of a Raja warrior on his back. Here too was the grand hall of audience, where the Durbar was
held. The ceiling was of white marble, supported by thirty marble columns, bearing an inscription in gold: "If
there be a Paradise on earth, it is this." The throne was in a recess at the back of the hall, and over the
throne was a peacock made of gold and jewels, valued at a million pounds.
One day Aurangzeb was sitting on his throne at a Durbar at Delhi, when his old tutor appeared before him. The
Great Mogul had suddenly stopped his pension, and he had come to know the reason. Aurangzeb gave him the
explanation in public.
"This tutor," he cried, "taught me the Koran (Mohammedan Bible) and wearied me with rules of Arabic grammar,
but he told me nothing at all of foreign countries. I learnt nothing of the Ottoman Empire in Africa. I was
made to believe that Holland was a great empire, and that England was bigger than France."
When his birthday came round the Great Mogul was weighed in state, and if he was found to weigh more than on
the preceding year there were great public rejoicings. All the chief people in the empire came to make their
offerings: precious stones, gold and silver, rich carpets, camels, horses, and elephants were presented to him.
He had tents of red velvet embroidered in gold. He
 had seven splendid thrones,—one covered with diamonds, one with rubies, one with pearls, one with emeralds,
though the Peacock Throne was the most valuable. While the Great Mogul was on his throne, fifteen horses stood
ready on either side, their bridles enriched with precious stones. Elephants were trained to kneel down before
the throne and do reverence with their trunks. The Emperor's favourite elephant was fed on good meat, with
plenty of sugar and brandy.
Aurangzeb himself was nearly one hundred years old when he died. Suspicion lest his sons should subject him to
the fate which he had inflicted on his own father left him a solitary old man. As death approached terror and
remorse seized him. "Come what may," he cried desperately at the last, "I have launched my vessel on the waves.
Farewell! farewell! farewell!"
So passed the last of the Great Moguls who ruled for over two hundred years in India. The empire was soon after
broken up, and the way left clear for England to found her great Eastern Empire beyond the seas.
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics