The Brothers Who Became the Power Behind the Moghul Throne
In the 1710s, two Indian courtier siblings, Syed Hassn Ali Khan Bahra and Syed Abdullah Khan, became the power behind the Moghul Empire’s throne. They effectively appointed and deposed emperors at will. The Sayyid brothers became extremely influential – when they did not outright rule through puppet emperors – and dominated the empire until the early 1720s. They were born into a military family, sons of a general who faithfully served the Emperor Aurangzeb, the Moghul Empire’s last powerful and effective ruler. The Sayyid brothers followed in their father’s footsteps, served as officers in the Moghul army, and grew steadily more influential in the Moghul court. However, they quit the court over a slight by an imperial prince, Jahandar.
When Jahandar became emperor in 1712, the Sayyid brothers remembered the slight. To pay back the newly-crowned emperor, they backed one of his nephews, Farrukhsiyar, who rose up in rebellion against his uncle. With the Sayyid brothers’ help, Farrukhsiyar defeated Jahandar in 1713, and became Moghul emperor. Jahandar was captured, imprisoned, and murdered soon thereafter. As a reward, Farrukhsiyar appointed the Sayyid brothers to high positions in his court and government. However, the emperor’s gratitude began to wane within a few years. When he began to favor other courtiers over the Sayyids, the relationship soured.