Islam, arguably the dominant cultural influence in Pakistan, arrived with Arab diplomats and traders in the A.D. 8th century. Waves of Muslims — many of the Turkic origin — followed, culminating with control by the Mughals (Moguls) over most of the Indian subcontinent. The Mughal empire flourished in the 16th and 17th centuries and remained officially in control until well after the British seet up shop and came to dominate India in the early 18th century. Effective British governance of the areas that now make up Pakistan was not achieved until well into the second half of the 19th century. [Source: Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations, Thomson Gale. 2007]

The first Muslim traders arrived in the Sindh in what is now southern Pakistan. According to the Columbia Encyclopedia: “In 712, the Muslim Arabs appeared in force and conquered Sindh, and by 900 they controlled most of NW India. They were followed by the Ghaznavid and Ghorid Turks. The first Turki invaders reached Bengal c.1200 and an important Muslim center was established there, principally through conversion of the Hindus. [Source: Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed., The Columbia University Press]

According to “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Religious Practices”: It was not until the eleventh century, when Turkish forces of the Ghaznavid dynasty (962–1186 c.e.) spread from Afghanistan to northern India, that Islam became a significant influence. Sufi orders established in India helped continue the dissemination of Islam in the region. By 1206 Delhi became the capital of the Muslim sultanate, and it remained so until 1526, when another Muslim dynasty, the Mughuls, supplanted the Muslim sultanate. With the rise of the Mughal Empire during the sixteenth century, Islam became fully entrenched in the subcontinent. [Source:“Worldmark Encyclopedia of Religious Practices,” Thomson Gale, 2006]

Although the northeast of the Indian subcontinent (now Bangladesh) remained, with interruptions, part of a united Mughal empire in India from the early 16th cent. to 1857, the northwest changed hands many times before it became (1857) part of imperial British India. It was overrun by Persians in the late 1730s; by the Afghans, who held Sindh and the Punjab during the latter half of the 18th cent.; and by the Sikhs, who rose to power in the Punjab under Ranjit Singh (1780–1839).

Introduction of Islam to Pakistan

The initial entry of Islam into India came in the first century after the death of the Prophet Muhammad. The Umayyad caliph in Damascus sent an expedition to Balochistan and Sindh in 711 led by Muhammad bin Qasim (for whom Karachi's second port is named). The expedition went as far north as Multan but was not able to retain that region and was not successful in expanding Islamic rule to other parts of India. Coastal trade and the presence of a Muslim colony in Sindh, however, permitted significant cultural exchanges and the introduction into the subcontinent of saintly teachers. Muslim influence grew with conversions. [Source: Peter Blood, Library of Congress, 1994 *]

Almost three centuries later, the Turks and the Afghans spearheaded the Islamic conquest in India through the traditional invasion routes of the northwest. Mahmud of Ghazni (979-1030) led a series of raids against Rajput kingdoms and rich Hindu temples and established a base in Punjab for future incursions. Mahmud's tactics originated the legend of idol-smashing Muslims bent on plunder and forced conversions, a reputation that persists in India to the present day.

During the last quarter of the twelfth century, Muhammad of Ghor invaded the Indo-Gangetic Plain, conquering in succession Ghazni, Multan, Sindh, Lahore, and Delhi. His successors established the first dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate, the Mamluk Dynasty (mamluk means "slave") in 1211 (however, the Delhi Sultanate is traditionally held to have been founded in 1206).

Pakistan Under the Early Muslim Kingdoms in India

The territory under control of the Muslim rulers in Delhi expanded rapidly. By mid-century, Bengal and much of central India was under the Delhi Sultanate. Several Turko-Afghan dynasties ruled from Delhi: the Mamluk (1211-90), the Khalji (1290-1320), the Tughlaq (1320-1413), the Sayyid (1414-51), and the Lodhi (1451-1526). As Muslims extended their rule into southern India, only the Hindu kingdom of Vijayanagar remained immune, until it too fell in 1565. Although some kingdoms remained independent of Delhi in the Deccan and in Gujarat, Malwa (central India), and Bengal, almost all of the area in presentday Pakistan came under the rule of Delhi. [Source: Peter Blood, Library of Congress, 1994 *]

The sultans of Delhi enjoyed cordial, if superficial, relations with Muslim rulers in the Near East but owed them no allegiance. The sultans based their laws on the Quran and the sharia and permitted non-Muslim subjects to practice their religion only if they paid jizya or head tax. The sultans ruled from urban centers--while military camps and trading posts provided the nuclei for towns that sprang up in the countryside.

Perhaps the greatest contribution of the sultanate was its temporary success in insulating the subcontinent from the potential devastation of the Mongol invasion from Central Asia in the thirteenth century. The sultanate ushered in a period of Indian cultural renaissance resulting from the stimulation of Islam by Hinduism. The resulting "Indo-Muslim" fusion left lasting monuments in architecture, music, literature, and religion. The sultanate suffered from the sacking of Delhi in 1398 by Timur (Tamerlane) but revived briefly under the Lodhis before it was conquered by the Mughals.

Ibn Battuta in Pakistan and Western India

Ibn Battuta (1304-1369) is regarded as the greatest traveler of all time. He was an Islamic scholar, jurist, judge, explorer, geographer from Tangier in present-day Morocco who traveled 120,000 kilometers (75,000 miles) through more than 40 present-day countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia during a 27 year period 700 years before trains and automobiles. He described his adventures in “Travels in Asia and Africa." Ibn Battuta was a contemporary of Marco Polo (1254-1324). His journeys preceded those of Columbus by about 150 years. Although he is little known in the West he is as well known as Marco Polo and Columbus in the Arab world. [Source: Thomas Abercrombie, National Geographic, December 1991]

Douglas Bullis wrote in Aramco World: “Ibn Battuta's exact path through Afghanistan and the Hindu Kush is uncertain because he does not make it clear where along the Indus he came out. But once on the hot plains, he headed for Multan, the sultan's westward customs outpost, which lay 40 days' march from Delhi "through continuously inhabited country." The traveler's pen waxed prolix as he noted the new foods, spices, trees, fruits and customs of this land where the ruling Muslims were the minority among the majority Hindu population." [Source: Douglas Bullis, Aramco World, July-August 2000 /*]

In Multan in present-day Pakistan, Ibn Battuta borrowed some money from local moneylenders and bought presents for the sultan of Delhi and sent a message by runner that he was coming. "From the province of Sindh to the Sultan's is fifty days's journey, but...the letter reaches him in five." Ibn Battuta traveled across Pakistan with an entourage that included Persia noblemen and their families, slaves, eunuchs and 20 cooks who prepared chicken, sweetmeats and persimmons. [Source: Thomas Abercrombie, National Geographic, December 1991]

The route was not without problems. Ibn Battuta described being "attacked in the open county there by eighty infidels on foot with two horsemen...we fought stoutly...killing one of their horsemen and about twelve of the foot soldiers...I was hit by an arrow and my horse by another, but God in his grace preserved me...We carried the heads of the slain to the castle of Abu Ak'har and suspended them from the wall."

From the Rajput Kingdom of Sarsatti, he visited Hansi in India, describing it as "among the most beautiful cities, the best constructed and the most populated; it is surrounded with a strong wall, and its founder is said to be one of the great infidel kings, called Tara". Upon his arrival in Sindh, Ibn Battuta mentions the Indian rhinoceros that lived on the banks of the Indus. [Source: World Heritage Encyclopedia, Project Gutenberg, Self-Publishing Press, ]

Safavid Empire

At its height the Safavid empire (1502-1736) embraced the modern states of Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Afghanistan and parts of Syria, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Pakistan. The Safavid Empire was based in what is today Iran. It lasted from 1501 to 1722 and was strong enough to challenge the Ottomans in the west and the Mughals in the east. Persian culture was revived under the Safavids, fanatical Shiites who fought with Sunni Ottomans for over a century and influenced the culture of the Mughals in India. They established the great city of Isfahan, created an empire that covered much of the Middle East and Central Asia and cultivated a sense Iranian nationalism. [Source: Library of Congress, December 1987 *]

According to the BBC: The Safavid Empire lasted from 1501-1722: 1) It covered all of Iran, and parts of Turkey and Georgia; 2) The Safavid Empire was a theocracy; 3) The state religion was Shi'a Islam; 4) All other religions, and forms of Islam were suppressed; 5) The Empire's economic strength came from its location on the trade routes; 6) The Empire made Iran a centre of art, architecture, poetry and philosophy; 7) The capital, Isfahan, is one of the most beautiful cities in the world; 8) The key figures in the Empire were and Isma'il I and Abbas I; 9) The Empire declined when it became complacent and corrupt. The Safavid Empire, although driven and inspired by strong religious faith, rapidly built the foundations of strong central secular government and administration. The Safavids benefited from their geographical position at the centre of the trade routes of the ancient world. They became rich on the growing trade between Europe and the Islamic civilizations of central Asia and India. [Source: BBC, September 7, 2009]

Suzan Yalman of The Metropolitan Museum of Art wrote: In the early sixteenth century, Iran was united under the rule of the Safavid dynasty (1501–1722), the greatest dynasty to emerge from Iran in the Islamic period. The Safavids descended from a long line of Sufi shaikhs who maintained their headquarters at Ardabil, in northwestern Iran. In their rise to power, they were supported by Turkman tribesmen known as the Qizilbash, or red heads, on account of their distinctive red caps. By 1501, Ismacil Safavi and his Qizilbash warriors wrested control of Azerbaijan from the Aq Quyunlu, and in the same year Ismacil was crowned in Tabriz as the first Safavid shah (r. 1501–24). Upon his accession, Shici Islam became the official religion of the new Safavid state, which as yet consisted only of Azerbaijan. But within ten years, all of Iran was brought under Safavid dominion. However, throughout the sixteenth century, two powerful neighbors, the Shaibanids to the east and the Ottomans to the west (both orthodox Sunni states), threatened the Safavid empire. [Source: Suzan Yalman, Department of Education, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Based on original work by Linda Komaroff, \^/]

Pashtun History

The Pashtuns have resisted attempts by the Mughals, Afghans, Sikhs, and British to pacify them. The Russians were defeated by the Pashtuns in the Afghanistan war. Almost everyone who came in contact with them, beginning with Alexander the Great, has commented on how fierce they were and what good fighters they were. In the fifth century B.C. Herodotus called them "the most warlike of all." Alexander fought four battles against them in the Swat Valley and suffered high casualty rates. The army of the Mughal Emperor Akbar was decimated at Karakar Pass.

The Pashtuns (Afghans) have periodically expanded out of their traditional homelands and have advanced as far as Delhi. The first historical reference to the Pashtuns (A.D. 982) referred to Afghans living on the Sulaiman Mountains. The Ghazanis, a group of Afghans and Turks, invaded and occupied much of northern India around the year 1000. In the 14th century Afghan kings took control of Delhi. Pashtun Khaljis and later Lodhis ruled there until they were displaced by the Mughals, another group with links to Afghanistan.

Ironically the Pashtuns were able to control India before they controlled their own homeland. That feat was not achieved until 1747 when Ahmed Shah Abdali emerged from Kandahar and patched together an empire that embraced parts of Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Iran. Members of his tribe ruled Afghanistan until 1973.

The Pashtun homeland is divided into Pakistan and Afghanistan by an artificial boundary drawn by the British in 1893. Over the years the Pashtuns have raised the issue of creating their own state by merging their territories in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The have demanded a plebiscite be called to settle the "Pashtunistan" issue. This issue was raised in Afghanistan in the 1960s.

Most Taliban were Pashtuns. Pashtuns also formed the majority of fighters who fought against the Soviets in the 1980s and the British in the 19th century.

Muslim Sites in Pakistan

Pakistan is a treasure-house of Muslim art and architecture. Lahore, the cultural capital of Pakistan, is situated along the bank of River Ravi . The city has witnessed the rise and fall of many dynasties like Ghaznavids (1021-1186 AD), Ghoris (1186-1202 AD) and Slaves (1206-1524 AD) before arrival of the Mughals. The city was conquered by Babur of Ferghana (situated in Uzbekistan), the founder of the Mughal dynasty (1524-1764 AD). All the important monuments like the Royal Fort, Badshahi Mosque, Wazir Khan’s Mosque and Tombs of Empror Jehangir, Asif Khan, Queen Noor Jehan and the Shalimar Gardens and Hiran Minar were constructed during this period.

The shrines, mosques and forts located in and around Multan and Bahawalpur are the master pieces of the early Muslim architecture. Some important buildings are the forts at Multan and Derawar (Bahawalpur), shrines of Shaikh Bahauddin Zakaria, Shah Rukan-e-Alam, Hazrat Shams Tabrez at Multan and Tomb of Bibi Jiwandi at Uchh Sharif near Bahawalpur. The tombs at Chaukundi, 27 kilometers out of Karachi, the remains at Banbhore (64 kilometers from Karachi) and the largest necropolis of the world with a million graves scattered over an area of 10 sq. kilometers on Makli Hills near Thatta together with the Shahjehan Mosque of Thatta, are exquisite specimens of Muslim architecture, with stone carving and glazed tile decorations.

Mughal Period in Pakistan

During the Mughal period, most of what is now Pakistan and Bangladesh was under Mughal control In the early 16th century, Tamerlane’s's descendant Babur invaded the Punjab from Afghanistan. He defeated the Lodhi of Delhi at the Battle of Panipat in 1526 and laid the foundations of the Mughal empire.

India in the sixteenth century presented a fragmented picture of rulers, both Muslim and Hindu, who lacked concern for their subjects and who failed to create a common body of laws or institutions. Outside developments also played a role in shaping events. The circumnavigation of Africa by the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama in 1498 allowed Europeans to challenge Arab control of the trading routes between Europe and Asia. In Central Asia and Afghanistan, shifts in power pushed Babur of Ferghana (in present-day Uzbekistan) southward, first to Kabul and then to India. The dynasty he founded endured for more than three centuries. [Source: Peter Blood, Library of Congress, 1994 *]

Claiming descent from both Chinggis Khan (also seen as Genghis Khan) and Timur, Babur combined strength and courage with a love of beauty, and military ability with cultivation. Babur concentrated on gaining control of northwestern India. He did so in 1526 by defeating the last Lodhi sultan at the first Battle of Panipat, a town north of Delhi. Babur then turned to the tasks of persuading his Central Asian followers to stay on in India and of overcoming other contenders for power, mainly the Rajputs and the Afghans. He succeeded in both tasks but died shortly thereafter in 1530. The Mughal Empire was one of the largest centralized states in premodern history and was the precursor to the British Indian Empire.

Mughal Rulers in Pakistan

Babur was succeeded by son Humayun, who was ousted by Pashtun chieftain Sher Shah Suri, who ruled the empire until his death in 1545. Humayun returned from exile in Persia and regained his throne until he died in 1554 after falling down some stairs in his library. Humayan was succeed by Akbar, the greatest Mughal leader. An able administrator and leader, Akbar patronized art and literature and extended the Mughal empire into central India, Kashmir, Sindh and Rajasthan. Mughal art and architecture reached it greatest heights under Akbar's son Jehangir, and his son Shah Jehan. The last Mughal ruler, Aurangzeb was a pious man and an efficient administrator. A few years after his death the Mughal empire collapsed and broke into fragmented independent states.

The perennial question of who was the greatest of the six "Great Mughals" receives varying answers in present-day Pakistan and India. Some favor Babur the pioneer and others his great-grandson, Shah Jahan (r. 1628-58), builder of the Taj Mahal and other magnificent buildings. The other two towering figures of the era by general consensus were Akbar (r. 1556-1605) and Aurangzeb (r. 1658-1707). Both rulers expanded the empire greatly and were able administrators. However, Akbar was known for his religious tolerance and administrative genius, while Aurangzeb was a pious Muslim and fierce protector of orthodox Islam in an alien and heterodox environment. [Source: Peter Blood, Library of Congress, 1994 *]


Akbar succeeded his father, Humayun (r. 1530-40 and 1555-56), whose rule was interrupted by the Afghan Sur Dynasty, which rebelled against him. It was only just before his death that Humayun was able to regain the empire and leave it to his son. In restoring and expanding Mughal rule, Akbar based his authority on the ability and loyalty of his followers, irrespective of their religion. In 1564 the jizya on non-Muslims was abolished, and bans on temple building and Hindu pilgrimages were lifted.

Akbar's methods of administration reinforced his power against two possible sources of challenge--the Afghan-Turkish aristocracy and the traditional interpreters of Islamic law, the ulama. He created a ranked imperial service based on ability rather than birth, whose members were obliged to serve wherever required. They were remunerated with cash rather than land and were kept away from their inherited estates, thus centralizing the imperial power base and assuring its supremacy. The military and political functions of the imperial service were separate from those of revenue collection, which was supervised by the imperial treasury. This system of administration, known as the mansabdari, was based on loyal service and cash payments and was the backbone of the Mughal Empire; its effectiveness depended on personal loyalty to the emperor and his ability and willingness to choose, remunerate, and supervise.

Akbar declared himself the final arbiter in all disputes of law derived from the Quran and the sharia. He backed his religious authority primarily with his authority in the state. In 1580 he also initiated a syncretic court religion called the Din-i-Ilahi (Divine Faith). In theory, the new faith was compatible with any other, provided that the devotee was loyal to the emperor. In practice, however, its ritual and content profoundly offended orthodox Muslims. The ulama found their influence undermined. The concept of Islam as a superior religion with a historic mission in the world appeared to be compromised. The syncretism of the court and its tolerance of both Hindus and unorthodox Shia sects among Muslims triggered a reaction among Sunni Muslims. In the fratricidal war of succession that closed the reign of Akbar's grandson Shah Jahan in 1658, the aristocracy supported the austere military commander Aurangzeb against his learned and eclectic brother Dara Shikoh, whom Aurangzeb defeated in battle and later had decapitated in 1662.

Aurangzeb and the Decline of the Mughal Empire

Aurangzeb's reign ushered in the decline of the Mughal Empire. Aurangzeb, who in the latter half of his long rule assumed the title "Alamgir" or "world-seizer," was known for aggressively expanding the empire's frontiers and for his militant enforcement of orthodox Sunni Islam. During his reign, the Mughal empire reached its greatest extent, although his policies also led to its dissolution. Although he was an outstanding general and a rigorous administrator, Mughal fiscal and military standards declined as security and luxury increased. Land rather than cash became the usual means of remunerating high-ranking officials, and divisive tendencies in his large empire further undermined central authority.

In 1679 Aurangzeb reimposed the hated jizya on Hindus. Coming after a series of other taxes and also discriminatory measures favoring Sunni Muslims this action by the "prayermonger " (emperor), incited rebellion among Hindus and others in many parts of the empire--Jat, Sikh, and Rajput forces in the north and Maratha forces in the Deccan. The emperor managed to crush the rebellions in the north, but at a high cost to agricultural productivity and to the legitimacy of Mughal rule. Aurangzeb was compelled to move his headquarters to Daulatabad in the Deccan to mount a costly campaign against Maratha guerrilla fighters, which lasted twenty-six-years until he died in 1707 at the age of ninety. Aurangzeb, oppressed by a sense of failure, isolation, and impending doom, lamented that in life he "came alone" and would "go as a stranger."

The Sikhs destroyed many cities and buildings in Pakistan. The Sikh adventurer, Ranjit Singh, carved out a dominion that extended from Kabul to Srinagar and Lahore, encompassing much of the northern area of modern Pakistan. British rule replaced the Sikhs in the first half of the 19th century. In a decision that had far-reaching consequences, the British permitted the Hindu Maharaja of Kashmir, a Sikh appointee, to continue in power. [Source: Countries of the World and Their Leaders Yearbook 2009, Gale]

Lahore Fort

The Fort and Shalimar Gardens are outstanding architectural monuments of the Mughal era. Fort and Shalamar Gardens in Lahore were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981. The earliest structures of the Fort were built by Emperor Akbar in the mid 16th century A.D., when Lahore became a center of culture and art. The Diwan-i-Am in the Iranian style built in red sandstone belongs to this period. Additions were made to the complex of palaces by his successors. Among these, Shah Jahan’s Naulakha Pavilion and Sheesh Mahal are exquisitely decorated with marble jaalis, inlay with semi precious stones, and frescoes. The famous picture wall with tile mosaics was built by Jahangir..

According to UNESCO: The Fort and Shalimar Gardens “are two masterpieces from the time of the brilliant Mughal civilization, which reached its height during the reign of the Emperor Shah Jahan. The fort contains marble palaces and mosques decorated with mosaics and gilt. The elegance of these splendid gardens, built near the city of Lahore on three terraces with lodges, waterfalls and large ornamental ponds, is unequalled.. [Source: UNESCO World Heritage Site website]

“The inscribed property includes two distinct royal complexes, the Lahore Fort and the Shalimar Gardens, both located in the City of Lahore, at a distance of 7 km. from each other. The two complexes – one characterized by monumental structures and the other by extensive water gardens — are outstanding examples of Mughal artistic expression at its height, as it evolved during the 16th and 17th centuries. The Mughal civilization, a fusion of Islamic, Persian, Hindu and Mongol sources (from whence the name Mughal derives) dominated the Indian subcontinent for several centuries and strongly influenced its subsequent development..

“The Lahore Fort, situated in the north-west corner of the Walled City of Lahore, occupies a site which has been occupied for several millenia. Assuming its present configuration during the 11th century, the Fort was destroyed and rebuilt several times by the early Mughals during the 13th to the 15th centuries. The 21 monuments which survive within its boundaries comprise an outstanding repertory of the forms of Mughal architecture from the reign of Akbar (1542-1605), characterized by standardized masonry of baked brick and red sandstone courses relieved by Hindu motifs including zooomorphic corbels, through that of Shah Jahan (1627-58), characterized by the use of luxurious marbles, inlays of precious materials and mosaics, set within exuberant decorative motifs of Persian origins..

“Akbar’s efforts are exemplified in the Masjidi Gate flanked by two bastions and the Khana-e-Khas-o-Am (Public and Private Audience Hall). Akbar’s successor, Jahangir, finished the large north court (1617-18) begun by Akbar and, in 1624-25, decorated the north and north-west walls of the Fort. Shah Jahan added a fairy tale-like complex of buildings surrounding the Court of Shah Jahan (Diwan-e-Kas, Lal Burj, Khwabgah-e-Jahangiri, and the Shish Mahal, 1631-32, one of the most beautiful palaces in the world, sparkling with mosaics of glass, gilt, semi-precious stones and marble screening)..”

Shalimar Gardens

Shalimar Gardens was constructed by the Taj Mahal emperor Shah Jahan as a place where he and his family could relax. Covering over 40 acres the Persian-style garden is a parade of mango trees, terraces, marble cascades, red sandstone pavilions, lakes, waterfalls, canals and over 400 fountains. Shalimar ("Abode of Love") was built in 1640. There are lots of chipmunks running about.

Shalimar follow the traditional layout of water courses and plantation called chahar bagh (four gardens, referring to the division of space). Multiple fountains in water channels, spread over three descending terraces and five cascades, provided a play of water and light against the mosaics, marble fretwork, plants and trees when illuminated at night. The gardens were built after the completion of the Shah Nahar canal in Rajpot (modern Madhpur, India), 161 kilometers away..

According to UNESCO: The Shalimar Gardens, constructed by Shah Jahan in 1641-2 is a Mughal garden, layering Persian influences over medieval Islamic garden traditions, and bearing witness to the apogee of Mughal artistic expression. The Mughal garden is characterized by enclosing walls, a rectilinear layout of paths and features, and large expanses of flowing water. The Shalimar Gardens cover 16 hectares, and is arranged in three terraces descending from the south to the north. The regular plan, enclosed by a crenellated wall of red sandstone, disposes square beds on the upper and lower terraces and elongated blocks on the narrower, intermediate terrace; within, elegant pavilions balance harmoniously arranged poplar and cypress trees, reflected in the vast basins of water. [Source: UNESCO World Heritage Site website]

Arrival of Europeans and the Decline of the Mughals

In the 18th and 19th centuries effective control by Aurangzeb's Mughal successors weakened. Succession to imperial and even provincial power, which had often become hereditary, was subject to intrigue and force. The mansabdari system gave way to the zamindari system, in which high-ranking officials took on the appearance of hereditary landed aristocracy with powers of collecting rents. As Delhi's control waned, other contenders for power emerged and clashed, thus preparing the way for the eventual British takeover. [Source: Peter Blood, Library of Congress, 1994 *]

Vasco da Gama led the first documented European expedition to India, sailing into Calicut on the southwest coast in 1498. In 1510 the Portuguese captured Goa, which became the seat of their activity. Under Admiral Alfonso de Albuquerque, Portugal successfully challenged Arab power in the Indian Ocean and dominated the sea routes for a century. Jesuits came to convert, to converse, and to record observations of India. The Protestant countries of the Netherlands and England, upset by the Portuguese monopoly, formed private trading companies at the turn of the seventeenth century to challenge the Portuguese.

Mughal officials permitted the new carriers of India's considerable export trade to establish trading posts (factories) in India. The Dutch East India Company concentrated mainly on the spice trade from present-day Indonesia. Britain's East India Company carried on trade with India. The French East India Company also set up factories.

During the wars of the eighteenth century, the factories served not only as collection and transshipment points for trade but also increasingly as fortified centers of refuge for both foreigners and Indians. British factories gradually began to apply British law to disputes arising within their jurisdiction. The posts also began to grow in area and population. Armed company servants were effective protectors of trade. As rival contenders for power called for armed assistance and as individual European adventurers found permanent homes in India, British and French companies found themselves more and more involved in local politics in the south and in Bengal. Plots and counterplots climaxed when British East India Company forces, led by Robert Clive, decisively defeated the larger but divided forces of Nawab Siraj-ud-Dawlah at Plassey (Pilasi) in Bengal in 1757.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (, Official Gateway to the Government of Pakistan (, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Wikipedia and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated February 2022

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