The Mughal Empire was an imperial power from the Indian Subcontinent. The Mughal emperors were descendants of the Timurids. The Mughal Empire began in 1526; at the height of their power in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, they controlled most of the Indian Subcontinent—extending from Bengal in the east to Balochistan in the west, Kashmir in the north to the Kaveri basin in the south. Its population at that time has been estimated at between 110 and 150 million, over a territory of more than 3.2 million square kilometers.
The "classic period" of the empire started in 1556 with the accession of Jalaluddin Mohammad Akbar, better known as Akbar the Great. Under the rule of Akbar the Great, India enjoyed much cultural and economic progress as well as religious harmony. The Mughals also forged a strategic alliance with several Hindu Rajput kingdoms. The reign of Shah Jahan, the fifth emperor, was the golden age of Mughal architecture. He erected many splendid monuments, the most famous of which is the legendary Taj Mahal at Agra, as well as Pearl Mosque, the Red Fort, and Lahore Fort. The Mughal Empire reached the zenith of its territorial expansion during the reign of Aurangzeb, who may have been the richest and most powerful man alive. During his lifetime, victories in the south expanded the Mughal Empire to more than 1.25 million square miles, ruling over more than 150 million subjects, nearly 1/4th of the world's population. The last Emperor, Bahadur Shah II, whose rule was restricted to the city of Delhi, was imprisoned and exiled by the British after the Indian Rebellion of 1857.
The name Mughal is derived from the original homelands of the Timurids, the Central Asian steppes once conquered by Genghis Khan and hence known as Moghulistan, "Land of Mongols". Although early Mughals spoke the Chagatai language and maintained some Turko-Mongol practices, they became essentially Persianized and transferred the Persian literary and high culture to India, thus forming the base for the Indo-Persian culture and the Spread of Islam in South Asia.