ʿĀLAM II, SHAH, Mughal emperor (1173-1253/1759-1806). Following the assassination of his father, ʿĀlamgīr II, on 4 Jomādā I 1173/24 December 1759, Mīrzā ʿAbdallāh ʿAlī Gowhar claimed the throne and adopted the name Abu’l-Moẓaffar Jalāl-al-dīn Moḥammad Shah ʿĀlam II. He was heir to a declining empire that was challenged by various ethnic groups in northern India and by the British in the east. His defeat at the battle of Baksar in Rabīʿ II, 1178/October, 1764, in his third attempt to dislodge the British from Bihar and Bengal resulted in the unquestioned supremacy of the East India Company over the eastern provinces. For many years he lived as a British pensioner in Allahabad, but in Ramażān, 1185/December, 1771 he managed to return to Delhi. In Rabīʿ I, 1210/July, 1803, General Lake took over Delhi under the pretense of ensuring Shah ʿĀlam’s personal safety, thus ending the myth of Mughal rule.
Various taḏkeras record that while in Allahabad Shah ʿĀlam kept himself busy with artistic and literary pursuits. With the taḵalloṣ of Āftāb, Shah ʿĀlam, and sometimes Ḵoršīd, he wrote poetry in Persian, Urdu, and Hindi. Among his known works are a Persian dīvān and Nāderāt-e šāhī, a collection of Persian, Urdu, and Hindi verses compiled around the year 1212/1797; its value extends to music, since most of the poetry is composed according to certain ragas and tals that are specified at the beginning of each poem. The many writings of Shah ʿĀlam, including ʿAǰāʾeb al-qeṣaṣ, one of the earliest Urdu prose works, reflect a great interest in Sufism, especially the Češtī and Qāderī orders, an intimate knowledge of the Islamic sciences, and a rare linguistic versatility. In his Persian poetry he prefers simple language and imagery to the sabk-e Hendī tradition.
Nāderāt-e šāhī, ed. I. ʿA. Ḵ. ʿAršī, Rampur, 1944.
A. L. Srivastava, Shuja-ud-dawlah, Calcutta, 1939, I, pp. 55-60.
Sayyed Ḡolām Ḥosayn Khan Ṭabāṭabāʾī, Sīar al-motaʾaḵḵerīn; tr. by Nota Manus, A Translation of the Seir Mutaqharin; or, View of Modern Times, Calcutta, 1789, repr. Lahore, 1975, II, pp. 524-38.
K. K. Datta, Shah Alam II and the East India Company, Calcutta, 1965.
W. Francklin, The History of the Reign of Shah-Aulum, the Present Emperor of Hindostaun, repr. Lucknow, 1973.
J. Sarkar, Fall of the Mughal Empire, repr. Calcutta, 1966, vol. II. Marshall, Mughals in India, pp. 436-37.
(S. S. Alvi)
Originally Published: December 15, 1985
Last Updated: July 29, 2011
This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 8, p. 791
S. S. Alvi, “ʿĀLAM II, SHAH,” Encyclopædia Iranica, I/8, p. 791; an updated version is available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/alam-ii-shah-mughal-emperor-1173-1253-1759-1806 (accessed on 17 May 2014).