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Sunday, September 19, 2021

Explained: 700-plus places in India that bear the names of Mughals today

Uttar Pradesh, whose govt says Mughals can't be our 'heroes', has 396 villages and towns named after them; Akbar is the Mughal emperor who has most places named after him across India.

Written by Zeeshan Shaikh , Edited by Explained Desk | Mumbai |
Updated: September 17, 2020 8:32:05 am
uttar pradesh, mughals, yogi adityanath mughals, mughal museum, mughal museum in agra, mughal museum renamed, yogi adityanath on mughal museum, indian expressA rendering of the Mughal Museum in Agra. The museum, underconstruction, is designed by Studio Archohm in partnership with David Chipperfield Architects. (Source:

Questioning “how Mughals can be our heroes”, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Monday (September 14) decided to name the upcoming “Mughal Museum” in Agra after Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.

An official spokesperson said Adityanath’s government stood for the nationalist ideology, and “anything which smacks of subservient mentality will be done away with”.

“How can our heroes be Mughals?” the spokesperson said. “The very name of Shivaji will invoke a feeling of nationalism and self-esteem”.

How strong is the imprint of the Mughals across India?

The rule of the Mughals (1526-1857) is entwined inseparably with India’s history and culture. Apart from the historical monuments that they have left behind, the most visible legacy of their rule today is in the various towns and villages across India that bear their names.

Of the 6 lakh cities, towns, and villages that make up the country, as many as 704 carry the name of the first six Mughal emperors, viz., Babur, Humayun, Akbar, Jahangir, Shahjahan and Aurangzeb.

The empire was its strongest during the period from the ascension of Akbar to the throne in 1556 and the death of Aurangzeb in 1707. The dynasty was founded by Babur, who defeated the Sultan of Delhi Ibrahim Lodhi in the first battle of Panipat in 1526 and ruled for the next four years. Babur’s son, Humayun lost control over the kingdom during a period of turmoil, which saw the Afghan Sur dynasty establish itself over a very large part of North India from around 1540 (when Sher Shah Suri defeated Humayun in the battle of Kannauj) to 1555-56.

uttar pradesh, mughals, yogi adityanath mughals, mughal museum, mughal museum in agra, mughal museum renamed, yogi adityanath on mughal museum, indian express Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. (Express Photo: Vishal Srivastav)

Which Mughal emperor has the most places named after him?

The most visible legacy is that of Akbar, who today has 251 villages and towns named after him. He is followed by Aurangzeb (177), Jahangir (141), Shahjahan (63), Babur (61), and Humayun (11).

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And where are these places located?

The majority of these places are in Northern and Central India, where the heart of the Mughal empire was located.

Among modern Indian states, Uttar Pradesh tops the list – with 396 of its 1 lakh-plus villages and towns bearing the names of the Mughals.

UP is followed by Bihar with 97, Maharashtra 50, and Haryana 39.

Nearly half of these places bear standalone names such as Akbarpur, Aurangabad, Humayunpur and Babarpur; however, there are also syncretic names such as Akbar Nivas Khandrika and Damodarpur Shahjahan.

The most common name is Akbarpur – of which there are nearly 70 across the country – followed by Aurangabad, which is the name of 63 places. (An obvious example is the city and district of this name in both Maharashtra and Bihar; both Aurangabads are also Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha constituencies in these two states.)

What has prompted the UP government to rename the museum in Agra after Shivaji?

Since coming to power in 2017, the Adityanath government has renamed several places in the state: the important railway junction Mughalsarai was renamed as Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Nagar, Allahabad as Prayagraj, and Faizabad as Ayodhya. The renaming is in line with the Sangh Parivar’s ideological commitment to reclaiming the “original” lost glory of India in pre-Islamic times.

Shivaji’s association with Agra is generally remembered for his spectacular escape from Mughal captivity in the city in 1666. Shivaji had been persuaded to visit Aurangzeb’s court with promises that he would not be harmed; however, he received a cold reception from the Emperor, and a guard was put around the building in which he was kept. A few months later, Shivaji and his son made their daring escape, being carried past the guards concealed in baskets, while an aide pretending to be him feigned illness inside the building.

The move to put Shivaji’s name to a building in Agra also signifies an attempt by the BJP to steal a march over its ally-turned-bitter rival Shiv Sena, which, despite having spoken about renaming Aurangabad (Maharashtra) for the past two decades, has been unable to do so yet.

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