Bahadur Shah I (also Muhammed Muazzam, Shah Alam) was the son of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. He succeeded to the throne in 1707 at the old age of sixty three, and became the seventh Mughal Emperor. He ruled for five years.
When Bahadur Shah received the news of death of Aurangzeb, he immediately decided to move towards Delhi to contest for the throne in which he was greatly assisted by his lieutenant, Munim Khan. His second son Azim-ush-Shan, pushed on to Agra, occupied the city and besieged the fort for his father. Bahadur Shah in person arrived at Agra on 12th June and gained possession of the fort with its accumulated treasures supposed to be of the value of 24 crores of rupees.
Azam Shah, the younger brother of Bahadur Shah, was also fighting for the war of succession. Azam Shah, who was at a few miles distance from Ahmednagar at the time of Aurangzeb’s death, ascended the throne on 14th March and after a few days halt proceeded towards Agra. But Azam wasted many precious days, and on his arrival in the vicinity of Agra found Bahadur Shah in possession of that imperial city. He rashly rejected Bahadur Shah’s offer to partition the empire and fought with him and was defeated and killed.
Before he could feel secure, Bahadur Shah had to defeat his youngest brother Kam Bakhsh. Kam Bakhsh had already crowned himself on the receipt of the news of his father’s death and made preparations to contest for the empire of Hindustan. Bahadur Shah crossed the Narmada on 17th May, 1708 and proposed to him to settle their dispute peacefully. But Kam Bakhsh rejected the offer and fought a battle near Hyderabad on January 13, 1709 and was badly defeated. He succumbed to his wounds during the night.
Bahadur Shah was now the undisputed master of the empire. He called a Durbar and gave important positions to his sons. Munim Khan was raised to the post of Wazir.
Ajit Singh, Durga Das and Raja Jai Singh Kachhwaha joined the Maharana Amar Singh of Mewar. They entered into a formal alliance, pledging a joint resistance to the Mughals, and expelled the Mughal commandant of Jodhpur. Bahadur Shah was obliged, therefore, to return to Rajputana in May 1710. But on account of his weakness and a Sikh rising in the Punjab, he decided to make peace with the Rajput chiefs.
Like the Rajputs in Marwar, the Sikhs in the Punjab, taking advantage of Aurangzeb’s death, broke into an open rebellion. The Sikhs, under the leadership of Banda Singh Bahadur, defeated the faujdar of Sonepat and occupied Sarhind. They made Sarhind his head quarters. The Sikhs dominated the country between Delhi and Lahore and stopped the peaceful traffic between these two cities. The Mughals re-occupied Sarhind in January 1711, but the Sikhs continued fighting.
Bahadur Shah died on 27th February, 1712.
Bahadur Shah at the time of his death was in his sixty-ninth year. He was buried in the courtyard of Aurangzeb’s mosque near the tomb of Qutbuddin Kaki, outside Delhi.
He was a mild and generous man and although possessed of great dignity of behavior, he proved to be a weak ruler. He was fond of compromise even in important political and administrative matters. Fortunately, on account of the traditional respect for the crown, the administration went on pretty successfully. Bahadur Shah had the good sense of keeping the experienced officers of his father’s time in the posts held by them and refraining from interfering with their work. Hence his short reign was on the whole successful.