The Muslim conquest of Odisha ushered in a new era in the state’s mediaeval history. Mukundadeva, Odisha’s last independent Hindu king, was assassinated in 1568 A.D. by the Afghans. This effectively ended mediaeval Odisha’s independence. Following that, the indigenous leaders devolved into puppets in the hands of the Afghan Governors of Bengal. Akbar, on the other hand, defeated these Afghan rulers and established Mughal rule in Odisha.
Between 1576 and 1605 A.D., the Mughal officers of Bengal spent nearly thirty years attempting to drive the Afghans out of Odisha, but were largely unsuccessful. Though Odisha was annexed to Akbar’s empire following Daud’s defeat, Mughal administration could not be implemented effectively in the province until Akbar’s death. Muzaffar Khan Turbati was appointed Governor of Bengal and Mausum Khan Afghan was appointed Governor of Odisha following Hussain Quli Khan’s death in 1578 AD.
The Mughal government now appointed some Afghan Jagirdars in Odisha, where Muzaffar Khan was constantly harassing them. Masum Khan, Odisha’s administrator, now had the opportunity to organise the state’s Afghans and prepare for a showdown with the Mughals.
Akbar and the Afghan rebels
Todarmal returned to Delhi in 1582 AD after establishing order in Odisha. Meanwhile, Governor of Bengal Khen-i-Azetn was appointed. Qutlu Lohani, another prominent Daud Karrani supporter, has now entered the political arena and established his authority over Odisha, aided by Masum Khan. He advanced towards Hoogly and defeated Muhammad Nizat Khan, Salimabad’s Mughal Fauzdar. On hearing this, Akbar dispatched a vast army under the command of Ktien-i-Azem to Katigang in order to teach the Afghan rebels a lesson.
On 27 March 1583, the Afghan rebels, led by Masum Khan and Qutlu Lohani, met the Mughal army. The Mughals defeated the Afghans. The Afghans were now forced to make peace with the Mughals. Khani-Azem was transferred from Bengal at this point because the climate was unsuitable for him, and Shahbaz Khan was appointed as his successor. Qutlu Lohani violated the Mughal peace treaty, and as a natural consequence, a fight broke out between Qutlu and the Mughals near Burdwan on 15 July 1583 A.D. Bahadur Kuruh, the Afghan commander, was defeated in this battle. Following that, the Afghans made a beeline for Odisha.
Meanwhile, Akbar dispatched an army to guard the Odisha frontier. Qutlu Lohani organised the Pathans and met with the Burdwan Mughals. The Mughal army was led by Wazir Khan, who defeated the Afghan chief. After being defeated, Qutlu Lohani marched towards Jaleswarand surrendered to the Mughal army by presenting the Mughals with sixty elephants. T’iat situational surrender was Qutlu Lohani’s diplomatic strategy. The Afghans resurrected their attack and plunder over Burdwan after regaining strength. Isa Khan, Masum Khan, and other Afghan leaders abandoned Qutlu Lohani and surrendered to Akbar at the Mughals’ request. Qutlu Lohani spent his days in Odisha unconcerned about Mughal incursions. While the Mughals ruled Bengal, Odisha remained an Afghan stronghold until it was finally conquered by Man Singh in 1593 A.D.
The Mughal-Afghan Treaty
While Qutlu Khan Lohani was in Odisha, Akbar dispatched one of his most capable generals, Raja Man Singh, to deal with the Afghans. Qutlu Khan prepared himself for the fight with the Mughals as the imperial army marched. To that end, he dispatched Afghan General Bahadur Kuruh. Umar Khan, Khwaja Isa, and others assisted Bahadur Kuruh crushed the Mughal army led by Jagat Singh, Man Singh’s son, at Raipur. Meanwhile, Qutlu Khan Lohani died and was succeeded by his son. As a weak ruler, his Wazir Khwaja Isa petitioned Man Singh for peace with the Mughals, which Man Singh accepted. The Afghans and Mughals signed a treaty on 15 August 1590 A.D. The treaty’s terms were as follows:
- The coins should bear the Emperor’s name, and the Khutba should be read in his honour.
- The Afghan ruler of Odisha should be an obedient and loyal vassal.
- The emperor would receive Jagannath (at Puri) and the surrounding districts.
Condition of Raja Ramachandradeva
According to the treaty, neither the Afghans nor Ramachandradeva, the then-king of Odisha, were satisfied. Man Singh had inserted a clause in the treaty for the protection of the principal Hindu religious institution of Jagannath against any Afghan oppression very deftly by influencing Akbar. This was a diplomatic manoeuvre designed to win the Hindus of Odisha’s support for the benevolent Mughal rule founded on the principle of toleration. Why, then, was Ramachandradeva dissatisfied? It was only because his authority and position as God Jagannath’s custodian were not adequately reflected in the treaty. On the other hand, the Mughals assumed the role of God’s custodian. Of course, Man Singh’s conquest of Odisha did not end Afghan hostility. Khwaja Isa, the Wazir of Nasir Khan, had now pledged allegiance to Emperor Akbar and ruled for two years in accordance with the treaty’s terms. Nasir Khan and his followers captured the temple of God Jagannath in 1592 A.D., defying Mughal authority and seizing the crown land of Puri. Raja Ramachandradeva undoubtedly supported the Afghans. Again, Man Singh marched against the Afghans with a grand Mughal army. On 10 April, 592 A.D., the Mughal army encountered stiff resistance from the Afghans on the bank of the Suvarnarekha river. A determined Mughal army, on the other hand, defeated the Afghans and pursued them to Cuttack via Jaleswar and Bhadrak.
Sarangagarh fort surrenders to the Mughal army
The Afghans were unable to maintain their position at Cuttack due to the Mughal army’s pressure. Cuttack, their stronghold, fell to the Mughals. The Afghans fled to Sarangagarh fort. At this point, Man Singh began his journey towards Khurda, while Raja Ramachandradeva remained at the fort. He found it difficult to send assistance to the Afghans at Sarangagarh. The Afghans surrendered after a feeble resistance, and Sarangagarh fell. Khurda was besieged by Man Singh. In 1593, Ramachandradeva demonstrated his loyalty to Akbar by making peace with Man Singh. Akbar recognised him as the ruler of Khurda and as the protector of Puri’s Jagannath temple. He was offered the rank of Mansabdar, which carries a salary of three thousand and five hundred rupees. With Ramachandradeva’s surrender in 1593, the Mughal conquest of Odisha was completed, effectively ending Afghan rule in the state. Thus, Odisha was inextricably linked to the Mughal empire until it was conquered by the Marathas.