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Aurangzeb as the young emperor

Birth name: Abu Muzaffar Muhiuddin Muhammad Aurangzeb Alamgir
Family name: Timurid
Title: Emperor of Mughal Empire
Birth: November 3, 1618
Birthplace: Dahod, India
Death: March 3, 1707
Succeeded by: Bahadur Shah I
  • Rabia Durrani
  • Dilras Bano Begam

Aurangzeb (Persian: اورنگ‌زیب‎, English: Onetime Adorning the Crown) (November 3, 1618March 3, 1707), also known as Alamgir I, was the ruler of the Mughal Empire from 1658 until 1707. He was the sixth Mughal ruler after Babur, Humayun, Akbar, Jahangir, and Shah Jahan. Aurangzeb was remarkably pious and zealous. Strict adherence to Islam and Sharia (Islamic law)—as he interpreted them—were the foundations of his reign. He codified and instituted Sharia law throughout the empire, abandoning the religious tolerance of his predecessors. During his reign, allegedly many Hindu temples were defaced and destroyed, and many non-Muslims converted to Islam, both by inducement and by force.[1] The Jizya, a head tax on non-Muslims, was reinstated during his rule.

Aurangzeb ruled India for 48 years. He expanded the Mughal Empire to its greatest extent, encompassing all but the southern tip of the Indian subcontinent. His constant policies of war, however, left the empire dangerously overextended, isolated from its strong Rajput allies, and with a population that (except for the Muslim minority) expressed resentment, if not outright rebellion, to his reign.

He remains one of the most controversial figures in Indian history. His religious policies continue to inspire conflict between religious and political groups in India, Pakistan and elsewhere. He is generally regarded as the last great Mughal ruler. His successors, the 'Later Mughals', lacked his strong hand and the Hindu Maratha Empire mostly replaced Mughal rule during the rest of the 18th century.


[edit] Rise to throne

[edit] Early life

Aurangzeb (full name: Abu Muzaffar Muhiuddin Muhammad Aurangzeb Alamgir --Persian: ابو مظفر محی الدین محمد اورنگزیب عالمگیر) was the third son of the fifth great Mughal emperor Shah Jahan (builder of the Taj Mahal) and Arjumand Bānū Begum (also known as Mumtaz Mahal). After a rebellion by his father, part of Aurangzeb's childhood was spent as a virtual hostage at his grandfather Jahangir's court.

After Jahangir's death in 1627, Aurangzeb returned to live with his parents. Shah Jahan followed the Mughal practice of assigning authority to his sons, and in 1634 made Aurangzeb Subahdar (governor) of the Deccan. He moved to Kirki, which in time he renamed Aurangabad. In 1637, he married Rabia Daurrani. During this period the Deccan was relatively peaceful. In the Mughal court, however, Shah Jahan began to show greater and greater favoritism to his eldest son Dara Shikoh.

In 1644, Aurangzeb's sister Jahanara Begum was accidentally burned in Agra. This event precipitated a family crisis which had political consequences. Aurangzeb suffered his father's displeasure when returning to Agra three weeks after the event, instead of returning immediately on hearing of the accident. Shah Jahan dismissed him as the governor of Deccan. Aurangzeb later claimed (1654) he had resigned in protest of his father favoring Dara.

Aurangzeb's fortunes continued to decline. In 1645, he was barred from the court for seven months. Later, Shah Jahan appointed him governor of Gujarat. He performed well and was rewarded. In 1647, Shah Jahan made him governor of Balkh and Badakhshan (near modern Turkmenistan and Afghanistan), replacing Aurangzeb's ineffective brother Murad Baksh. These areas were at the time under attack from a various forces. Aurangzeb's military skill proved successful, and the story of how he spread his prayer rug and prayed in the midst of battle brought him much fame.

He was appointed governor of Multan alongside Osman Junaid and Sindh and began a protracted military struggle against the Safavid army in an effort to capture the city of Kandahar. He failed, and fell again into his father's disfavor.

In 1652, Aurangzeb was re-appointed governor of the Deccan. But both man and place had changed. The Deccan produced poor tax revenue for the Mughals. In his previous term, Aurangzeb ignored the problem, allowing state-sanctioned corruption and extortion to grow. This time Aurangzeb set about reforming the system, but his efforts often placed additional burdens on the locals and were poorly received.

It was during this second governorship that Aurangzeb first recounts destroying a Hindu temple. In addition, Aurangzeb's officers began treating non-Muslims harshly, and he defended these practices in letters to Shah Jahan's court. The practices would become themes in Aurangzeb's rule as emperor.

In an effort to raise additional revenues, Aurangzeb attacked the border kingdoms of Golconda (1657), and Bijapur (1658). Both times, Shah Jahan called off the attacks near the moment of Aurangzeb's triumph. Even at the time it was believed that the withdrawals had been ordered by Prince Dara, in Shah Jahan's name.

[edit] War of succession

A painting from circa 1637 shows the brothers (left to right) Shuja, Aurganzeb and Murad Baksh in their younger years.
A painting from circa 1637 shows the brothers (left to right) Shuja, Aurganzeb and Murad Baksh in their younger years.

Shah Jahan fell ill in 1657, and was widely reported to have died. With this news, the struggle for succession began. Aurangzeb's eldest brother, Dara Shikoh, was regarded as heir apparent, but the succession proved far from certain. When Shah Jahan supposedly died, his second son, Shah Shuja declared himself emperor in Bengal. Imperial armies sent by Dara and Shah Jahan soon restrained this effort, and Shuja retreated.

Soon after, Shuja's youngest brother Murad Baksh, with secret promises of support from Aurangzeb, declared himself emperor in Gujarat. Aurangzeb, ostensibly in support of Murad, marched north from Aurangabad, gathering support from nobles and generals. Following a series of victories, Aurangzeb declared that Dara had illegally usurped the throne. Shah Jahan, determined that Dara would succeed him, handed over control of his empire to Dara. A Hindu lord opposed to Aurangzeb and Murad, Maharaja Jaswant Singh, battled them both at Dharmatpur near Ujjain, leaving them heavily weakened. Aurangzeb eventually defeated Singh and concentrated his forces on Dara. A series of bloody battles followed, with troops loyal to Aurangzeb battering Dara's armies at Samugarh. In a few months, Aurangzeb's forces surrounded Agra. Fearing for his life, Dara departed for Delhi, leaving behind Shah Jahan. The old emperor surrendered the Red Fort of Agra to Aurangzeb's nobles, but Aurangzeb refused any meeting with his father, declaring that Dara was his enemy.

In a sudden reversal, Aurangzeb then had Murad arrested after intoxicating him and later executed him;[2] Murad's former supporters, instead of fighting for Murad, defected to Aurangzeb. Meanwhile, Dara gathered his forces, and moved to Punjab. The army sent against Shuja was trapped in the east, its generals Jai Singh I and Diler Khan, submitted to Aurangzeb, but allowed Dara's son Sulaiman to escape via the Himalayan foothills and join his father in Punjab. Aurangzeb offered Shuja the governorship of Bengal. This move had the effect of isolating Dara and causing more troops to defect to Aurangzeb. Shuja, however, uncertain of Aurangzeb's sincerity, continued to battle his brother, but his forces suffered a series of defeats at Aurangzeb's hands. At length, Shuja went into exile in Arakan (in present-day Myanmar) where he disappeared, and was presumed to be dead.

With Shuja and Murad disposed of, and with his father Shah Jahan confined in Agra, Aurangzeb pursued Dara, chasing him across the northwest bounds of the empire. After a series of battles, defeats and retreats, Dara was betrayed by one of his generals, who arrested and bound him. In 1659, Aurangzeb arranged a formal coronation in Delhi. He had Dara openly marched in chains back to Delhi; when Dara finally arrived, he had his brother executed. Legends about the cruelty of this execution abound, including stories that Aurangzeb had Dara's severed head sent to the dying Shah Jahan. With his succession secured, Aurangzeb kept Shah Jahan under house arrest at the Red Fort in Agra. Legends concerning this imprisonment abound, for the fort is ironically close to Shah Jahan's great architectural masterpiece, the Taj Mahal.

[edit] Aurangzeb's Reign

[edit] Enforcement of Islamic law

The Mughals had for the most part been tolerant of non-Muslims (compared to Aurangzeb), allowing them to practice their customs and religion without too much interference. Though certain Muslim laws had been in place -- prohibitions against building new Hindu temples, the poll tax on non-Muslims (the Jizyah), was repealed by Emperor Akbar in 1562. Akbar also encouraged political tolerance toward the non-Muslim majority.

Until Aurangzeb's reign, Indian Islam had been guided by mystical Sufi precepts. Although Sunni in ancestry, the emperors from Humayun on had tolerated or openly embraced the activities of the Chisti Sufis. But Aurangzeb abandoned many of the more liberal viewpoints of his predecessors. He espoused a more fundamentalist interpretation of Islam and a behavior based on the Sharia (Islamic law), which he set about codifying through edicts and policies. His Fatawa-e-Alamgiri, is a 33 volume compilation of these edicts.

Under Aurangzeb, Mughal court life changed dramatically. According to his interpretation (in consultation with fundamentalist clerics), Islam did not allow music. Thus, he banished court musicians, dancers and singers (Surprisingly, he is well accomplished in playing veena, a stringed instrument). Further, based on Muslim precepts forbidding images, he stopped the production of representational artwork, including the miniature painting that had reached its zenith before his rule. Soldiers and citizens were also given free rein to deface architectural images such as faces, flowers and vines -- even on the walls of Mughal palaces. Untold thousands of representational images were destroyed in this way. Aurangzeb abandoned the Hindu-inspired practices of former Mughal emperors, especially the practice of 'darshan', or public appearances to bestow blessings, which had been commonplace since the time of Akbar, as well as lavish celebrations of the Emperor's birthday.

Aurangzeb began to enact and enforce a series of edicts and with punishments. Most significantly, Aurangzeb initiated laws which sometimes interfered with non-Muslim worship. These included the destruction of several temples (mostly Hindu), a prohibition of certain religious gatherings, collection of the jizya tax, the closing of non-Islamic religious schools, and prohibition of practices deemed immoral by him, such as temple dances. Often the punishment for breaking these laws was death.

There were a great many rebellions during Aurangzebs's reign, including those by the Rajput states of Marwar and Mewar, and the Sikhs. Things came to such a head that Guru Teg Bahadur, the 9th Guru of the Sikhs was tortured and executed by Aurangzeb for refusing to accept Islam, a martyrdom which is mourned to this day by the Sikh community. The 10th Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh led an open revolt against Aurangzeb. His efforts to conquer the Marathas also met with fierce resistance.

The climate of religious orthodoxy is often cited as the reason for these rebellions, as well as for the collapse of the Mughal empire after Aurangzeb. But many historians today are re-assessing the period, and offer economic and political reasons for the many rebellions and the disintegration that followed, rather than religious, including the fact that the empire had become too huge and unwieldy, also that Aurangzeb's long wars of expansion, especially his decades in the Deccan, seriously strained the imperial treasury, while the many new nobles created and promoted by him (many of them Deccanis) did not share the old loyalty to the empire. Above all, the peasantry was steadily getting bled to death.

Also, it is useful to note that even amidst the orthodoxy, a great many top imperial officers continued to be Hindu, including Aurangzeb's highest general Mirza Raja Jai Singh. The number of Hindu mansabdars actually went up in Aurangzeb's time to 33% in the fourth decade of his rule, from 24.5% under his father Shah Jahan.

[edit] Expansion of the empire

Emperor Aurangzeb seated on a golden throne holding a hawk in the Durbar. Such scenes would be rare in the latter part of his reign as he was permanently camped in the Deccan, fighting wars.
Emperor Aurangzeb seated on a golden throne holding a hawk in the Durbar. Such scenes would be rare in the latter part of his reign as he was permanently camped in the Deccan, fighting wars.

From the start of his reign up until his death, Aurangzeb engaged in almost constant warfare. He built up a massive army, and began a program of military expansion at all the boundaries of his empire.

Aurangzeb pushed into the northwest -- into Punjab, and what is now Afghanistan. He also drove south, conquering Bijapur and Golconda, his old enemies. He further attempted to suppress the Maratha territories, which had recently been liberated from Bijapur by Shivaji.

But the combination of military expansion and religious intolerance had far deeper consequences. Though he succeeded in expanding Mughal control, it was at an enormous cost in lives and treasure. And as the empire expanded in size, the chain of command grew weaker.

The Sikhs of Punjab grew both in strength and numbers in rebellion against Aurangzeb's armies. When the minor Muslim kingdoms of Golconda and Bijapur fell beneath Aurangzeb's might, rebellious Hindus flocked to join Shivaji and the Maratha Empire. For the last 27 years of his life, Aurangzeb engaged in constant battles in the Deccan, at enormous expense.

Even Aurangzeb's own armies grew restive -- particularly the fierce Rajputs, who were his main source of strength. Aurangzeb gave a wide berth to the Rajputs, who were mostly Hindu. While they fought for Aurangzeb during his life, mostly out of fear, on his death they immediately revolted against the Empire, an essential after effect of Aurangzeb's Islamic fundamentalist policies.

With much of his attention on military matters, Aurangzeb's political power waned, and his provincial governors and generals grew in authority.

[edit] Conversion of non-Muslims

The forcible conversion of non-Muslims to Islam was a policy objective under Aurangzeb's rule.

Aurangzeb's ultimate aim was conversion of non-Muslims to Islam. Whenever possible the emperor gave out robes of honor, cash gifts, and promotions to converts. It quickly became known that conversion was a sure way to the emperor's favor.[3]

In economic and political terms, Aurangzeb's rule significantly favored Muslims over non-Muslims,[4] and he interfered with non-Muslim religious practice through sweeping and often violent methods. Aurangzeb created a climate favorable for conversion by discriminating against non-Muslims who refused to give up their ancestral faiths and rewarding those who converted.

[edit] Atitudes towards Hindus

Aurangzeb has been widely characterized as an anti-Hindu, unlike other more liberal emperors who immediately preceded him. This characterization came about largely due to his disparaging views against Hindus and his attempts to induce the conversion of Hindus to Islam.[5][6]The anti-Hindu measures of Aurangzeb were intended to help the orthodox Sunni faith gain prominence in India in an indirect manner.[7] His various edicts against Hindus, such as banning the celebration of Diwali and imposition of jizya on non-Muslims are also factors in determining his attitudes.Indian historian, Sir Jadunath Sarkar has traced the anti-Hindu policies of Aurangzeb from as early an year as 1644 AD[8] Historian E. Taylor writes that his negative views on Hindus were the primary reason for his reversal of the liberal policies of the previous Mughal emperors and "resume the persecution of Hindus" in the Empire, and the many rebellions that arose against him in Rajasthan and among the Marathas.[9].

[edit] Hindu temple desecration

No aspect of Aurangzeb's reign is more cited - or more controversial - than the desecrations and destruction of Hindu temples.

[edit] Accounts of iconoclasm

During his reign, many hundreds -- perhaps many thousands -- of temples were desecrated: facades and interiors were defaced and their murtis (idols) looted. In many cases, temples were destroyed entirely; in numerous instances mosques were built on their foundations, sometimes using the same stones.His edicts show that he authorized and encouraged these acts. The history of the Mughal reign under Aurangzeb was chronicled as the Maāsir-i-ʻālamgiri, which states that:

  1. Aurangzeb issued a general order to destroy all centers of Hindu learnings including Varnasi and destroyed the temple at Mathura and rename it as Islamabad[10][11]
  2. In Khandela (Rajastan) he killed 300 Hindus in one day for they resisted the destruction of their temple.
  3. In Multan and Thatta in Sind, Aurangzeb ordered the governors to "demolish the schools and temples of the infidels and with utmost urgency put down the teachings and practices of these religious misbelievers [Hindus]"[10][11]
  4. In Udaipur all Hindus of the town were killed as they vowed to defend the temple of Udaipur from destruction.172 temples were destroyed in Udaipur.[11]
  5. 66 temples were pulled down in Amber. All Hindu clerks were dismissed from the office of the Imperial empire.
  6. In Pandhpur, Maharashtra, the Emperor ordered and executed the destruction of temple and butchering of cows within the temple.[11]

From the beginning of his reign, Aurangzeb permitted and even encouraged the defacement and destruction of Hindu temples. Other edicts added to the impact. In 1665 he forbade Hindus to display illuminations at Diwali festivals.[12] Hindu religious fairs were outlawed in 1668. The following year, he prohibited construction of new Hindu temples as well as the repair of existing ones. In 1671 Aurangzeb issued an order that only Muslims could be landlords of crown lands. He ordered provincial Viceroys to dismiss all Hindu clerks. In 1674 certain lands owned by Hindus in Gujarat were confiscated. The customs duties levied on merchants was doubled for non-Muslims. In 1679, contrary to the advice of many of his court nobles and theologians, Aurangzeb reimposed the Jizya tax on all non-Muslims.[12]

Speaking of the devastating persecution of the Hindu and his architectural symbols,V.S. Naipaul has written " This is such a big and bad event that people still have to find polite, destiny-defying ways of speaking about it"

Among those that Aurangzeb is said to have destroyed were two most sacred to Hindus, in Varanasi and Mathura. In both cases, he had large mosques built on the sites. Some historians opine that these temples were destroyed more for political reasons than religious, e.g. the Kesava Deo temple in Mathura, which marked the place believed to be the birth place of Shri Krishna, was destroyed as a reprisal for the peasant rebellions in the locality. The temple had large, gilded spires that could be seen from Agra. In 1661 Aurangzeb ordered the demolition of the temple, and constructed the Katra Masjid mosque. Traces of the ancient Hindu temple can be seen from the back of the mosque.

[edit] Historical revisionism

Some latter-day historians engage in historical revisionism to state that Aurangzeb did not indiscriminately destroy temples but went as far as to protect some of them. eg. Aurangzeb ordered the local officials in Benares to protect the temples and Brahman temple functionaries.[13] The revisionists claim that, despite decades of campaigning in the Deccan, little record is to be found of temple destruction in the region only (although records are abound of Aurangzeb's iconoclasm elsewhere in the subcontinent). And, following the practise of earlier emperors, he continued to confer jagirs upon some Hindu temples, such as the Someshwar Nath Mahadev temple in Allahabad, Jangum Badi Shiva temple in Banaras, and Umanand temple in Gauhati. [14].

Some Marxist historians like Romila Thapar and M.N. Roy have gone even beyond that, and tried to prove that Aurangzeb, alltogether, in fact, was a benevolent ruler and very tolerant towards other religions. Thapar has even attempted to dismiss "local legends" of Aurangzeb's cruelty as "mere rumours". Thapar has come under fire from her high-profile critic, Arun Shourie, for "white-washing" the records Aurangzeb and of "tampering with history" in order to appease her Marxist biases in favor of Muslims, which she allegedly sees as "pitted against Hinduism in a class struggle".[15]. Such claims have also been criticized by V.S. Naipaul when he wrote 'And indeed is the case, when it comes to the number of temples Aurangzeb demolished, the inclusion of the sentence: "...number of such desecrations is probably much exaggerated...",is an unwritten law among Indian historians.'

[edit] Impact of Aurangzeb's reign

This is again a disputed issue. Some (including Hindutva organisations like the RSS) hold that Aurangzeb's religious expansionist policies and his discriminatory laws, caused a momentous change in India in which peoples began to identify and align themselves according to their religions, a development would influence all subsequent Indian history. Many Marxist historiographers like Irfan Habib (who refers to a severe agrarian crisis), Athar Ali (who blames the never-ending Deccan wars), etc, believe that the real crisis was in the political and economic policies. And there are those like Satish Chandra who believe that the Mughal empire was already weakened (a jagirdari crisis) before Aurangzeb came to the throne, so it was only his steadfast commitment to strong rule and expansion that kept it from falling apart during his reign itself. In fact Athar Ali holds that the Islamicist propaganda of his reign was just that, propaganda to cover up the dubious methods he had used to come to power, and then the failed military expansions.

[edit] Rebellions

Many subjects rebelled against Aurangzeb's policies, among them his own son, Prince Akbar.

In 1667, the Yusufzais revolted near Peshawar and were crushed.

In 1668 the Hindu Jats in the Agra district revolted. Though they suffered horrendous loss of life, the rebellion continued for years. In 1681, the Jats attacked and desecrated Akbar's tomb in Sikandra.

In 1670, Shivaji, who had been defeated in 1666 by Mirza Raja Jai Singh, and brought to the Imperial Court at Agra, looted Surat again, thus re-opening war with the Mughals.

In 1672 the Satnamis, a Kabirpanthi sect concentrated in an area near Delhi, staged an armed revolt, taking over the administration of Narnaul, and defeating Mughal forces in an advance on Delhi. Aurangzeb sent an army of ten thousand, including his Imperial Guard, and put the rebellion down with great loss of life.

Soon afterwards the Afghan Afridi clans in the northwest also revolted, and Aurangzeb was forced to lead his army personally to Hasan Abdal to subdue them.

When its Maharaja Jaswant Singh of Jodhpur died in 1679, a conflict ensued over who would be the next Raja, Aurangzeb's choice of a nephew of the former Maharaja not being accepted by other members of Jaswant Singh's family. They rebelled, but in vain. Aurangzeb seized control of Jodhpur, destroying many Hindu temples. He also moved on Udaipur, which was the only other state of Rajputana to support the rebellion. There was never a clear resolution to this conflict, although it is noted that the other Rajputs, including the celebrated Kachwaha Rajput clan of Mirza Raja Jai Singh, also the Bhattis, Haras and Rathods, remained loyal. On the other hand, Aurangzeb's own third son, Prince Akbar, joined the rebels, along with a few Muslim Mansabdar supporters, in the hope of dethroning his father and becoming emperor. (Once again the easy divide of Muslim Aurangzeb versus 'all the Hindus' is called into question.) The rebels were however defeated and Akbar fled south to the shelter of the Maratha Sambhaji, Shivaji's successor. When they were defeated as well, and Sambhaji killed, he fled abroad where he died.

[edit] The Deccan wars and the rise of the Marathas

In the time of Shah Jahan, the Deccan had been controlled by three Muslim kingdoms: Ahmednagar, Bijapur and Golconda. Following a series of battles, Ahmendnagar was effectively divided, with large portions of the kingdom ceded to the Mughals and the balance to Bijapur. One of Ahmednagar's generals, a Hindu Maratha named Shahaji, retreated to Bijapur. Shahaji appointed his wife and young son Shivaji in Pune to look after his jagir.

In 1657, while Aurangzeb attacked Golconda and Bijapur, Shivaji, using guerrilla tactics, took control of three Bijapuri forts formerly controlled by his father. With these victories, Shivaji assumed defacto leadership of many independent Maratha clans. The Marathas harried the flanks of the warring Bijapuris and Mughals, gaining weapons, forts, and territories. During the war of succession, Shivaji's small and ill-equipped army survived an all out Bijapuri attack, and Shivaji personally killed the Bijapuri general, Afzul Khan. With this event, the Marathas transformed into a powerful military force, capturing more and more Bijapuri and Mughal territory.

Following his coronation in 1659, Aurangzeb sent his trusted general and maternal uncle Shaista Khan to the Deccan to recover his lost forts. Shaista Khan drove into Marathi territory, and took up residence in Pune. In a daring raid, Shivaji attacked the governor's residence in Pune, killed Shaista Khan's son, even hacking off Shaista Khan's thumb as he fled. Once more the Marathis rallied to his leadership, taking back the territory.

Aurangzeb for the next few years ignored the rise of the Marathas. Shivaji led by inspiration, not by official authority, and the Marathas continued to capture forts belonging to both Mughals and Bijapur. At last Aurangzeb sent his Jaipuri general Jai Singh, a Hindu, to attack the Marathas.

Jai Singh's blistering attacks were so successful that he was able to persuade Shivaji to agree to peace by becoming a Mughal vassal. But when Shivaji and his son accompanied Jai Singh to Agra to meet Aurangzeb, confusion occurred, ending in an altercation at he fealty ceremony. As a result, Shivaji and his son Sambhaji were placed under house arrest in Agra, from which they daringly managed to escape.

Shivaji returned to the Deccan, successfully drove out the Mughal armies, and was crowned Chhatrapati or Emperor of the Maratha Empire in 1674. While Aurangzeb continued to send troops against him, Shivaji expanded Maratha control throughout the Deccan until his death in 1680.

Sambhaji succeeded in 1681. Though he was less effective militarily and politically, Mughal efforts to control the Deccan continued to fail.

Aurangzeb's son Akbar left the Mughal court and joined with Sambhaji, inspiring some Mughal forces to join the Marathas. Aurangzeb in response moved his court to Aurangabad and took over command of the Deccan campaign. More battles ensued, and Akbar fled to Persia.

For nine years, Aurangzeb couldn't win a single fort from the Marathas. But in 1689 Aurangzeb captured Sambhaji by treachery and publicly tortured and killed him. His brother Rajaram succeeded, but the empire fell into disarray. Surprisingly, however, this collapse provided the Marathas with great military advantage. Maratha Sardars (commanders) fought individual battles against the Mughals, and territory changed hands again and again during years of endless warfare. As there was no central authority among the Marathas, Aurangzeb was forced to contest every inch of territory, at great cost in lives and treasure. Even as Aurangzeb drove west, deep into Maratha territory (notably conquering Satara), the Marathas expanded attacks eastward into Mughal lands, including Mughal-held Malwa and Hyderabad. Once, the Marathas attacked the imperial camp in the night, and cut off the ropes of the Emperor's tent. The Emperor escaped being crushed by the heavy tent only because he happened to spend that night in another tent.

Aurangzeb waged continual war for more than two decades with no resolution. After his death, new leadership arose among the Marathas, who soon became unified under the rule of the Peshwas during the reign of Shivaji's grandson, Shahu.

[edit] The Pashtun rebellion

Along with the Rajputs, the Pashtun tribesmen of the Empire were considered the bedrock of the Mughal Army as well as crucial defenders of the Mughal Empire from the threat of invasion from the West. The Pashtun revolt in 1672 was triggered when soldiers under the orders of the Mughal Governor Amir Khan attempted to molest women of the Safi tribe in modern day Kunar. The Safi tribes attacked the soldiers. This attack provoked a reprisal, which triggered a general revolt of most of the tribes. Attempting to reassert his authority, Amir Khan led a large Mughal Army to near the Khyber pass. There the army was surrounded by tribesmen and routed, with only four men -- including the Governor -- managing to escape.

After that the revolt spread, with the Mughals suffering a near total collapse of their authority along the Pashtun belt. Particularly felt was the closure of the important Attock to Kabul trade route along the Grand Trunk road. By 1674 the situation had deteriorated to the extent that Aurangzeb himself camped at Attock to personally take charge. Switching to diplomacy and bribery along with force of arms, the Mughals eventually split the rebellion and while they never managed to wield effective authority outside the main trade route, the revolt was partially suppressed. However the long term anarchy on the Mughal frontier that prevailed as a consequence ensured that Nadir Shah's forces half a century later faced little resistance on the road to Delhi.

[edit] Defiance of the Sikhs and the rise of the Khalsa

Since its founding by Guru Nanak in the 1500s, Sikhism grew in popularity throughout India, particularly in the Punjab. Even Emperor Akbar is said to have been a great admirer of the third Guru, and to have donated land to him for the creation of the Amritsar tank. But in the years following the persecution and death of the fifth Guru Arjan Dev by Aurangzeb's grandfather Jahangir, the Sikh-Mughal conflict grew. Some historians believe that the root of this conflict was not religious but political, in the fact that the Gurus had supported Prince Khusrao over Jehangir in the latter's battle for the throne, and then Dara over Aurangzeb in the next generation. They are also reported to have started collecting taxes in the Punjab region.

Early in Aurangzeb's reign, various insurgent groups of Sikhs engaged Mughal troops in increasingly bloody battles. In 1670, the ninth Sikh Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur encamped in Delhi, receiving large numbers of followers, which is said to have attracted the ire of Aurangzeb.

Sikhs and Kashmiri Pandits recount that in 1675 a group of Kashmiri brahmins, who were of the Hindu faith, were being pressured by Muslim authorities to convert to Islam and approached Guru Tegh Bahadur with their dilemma. To demonstrate a spirit of unity and tolerance, the Guru agreed to help the brahmins: He told them to inform Aurangzeb that the brahmins would convert only if Guru Tegh Bahadur himself was converted.

His response led to his death. The Guru and his diciples were tortured by various methods, boiled alive, burned alive, sawn in half and scalped. Needless to say, Aurangzeb decided to try more brutal methods to force Tegh Bahadur Sahib to accept Islam. He was kept in chains and imprisoned for three days in an iron cage designed to be shorter than the prisoner's height, with sharp spikes pointing inwards, so that the victim could neither stand, nor sit, nor lean against the walls of the cage[16].

The execution of Guru Tegh Bahadur infuriated the Sikhs. In response, his son and successor, Guru Gobind Singh further militarized his followers.

Aurangzeb installed his son Bahadur Shah as governor of the northwest territories, including Sikh-controlled parts of Punjab. The new governor relaxed enforcement of Aurangzeb's edicts, and an uneasy peace ensued. However, Guru Gobind Singh had determined that the Sikhs should actively prepare to defend their territories and their faith. In 1699 he established the Khalsa a Sikh order of "saint-soldiers" or "warrior-monks", ready to die for their cause.

This development alarmed not only the Mughals, but the nearby Rajputs. In a temporary alliance, both groups attacked Guru Gobind Singh and his followers. The united Mughal and Rajput armies laid siege to the fort at Anandpur Sahib. Although they faced certain death, the Sikhs refused to surrender. In an attempt to dislodge the Sikhs, Aurangzeb vowed that the Guru and his Sikhs would be allowed to leave Anandpur safely. Aurangzeb is said to have validated this promise in writing. Unconfirmed by scholars, this account of the promise is unlikely; however, seeing the suffering of his followers, Guru Gobind Singh Ji had made plans to sneak away. It is reported that in the absence of any formal surrender by the Sikhs, as they abandoned the fort under the cover of darkness, the Mughals were alerted and enagaged the battle to ensue again.

The Mughals, although suffering some mighty losses, apparently killed all four of Guru Gobind Singh's sons and decimated much of the Sikh army. Only Guru Gobind Singh and forty others escaped. Guru Gobind Singh in response sent Aurangzeb an eloquent yet defiant letter entitled the Zafarnama (Notification of Victory), accusing the emperor of treachery, and claiming a moral victory.

On receipt of this letter, Aurangzeb is said to have invited Guru Gobind Singh to meet in Ahmednagar, but Aurangzeb died before Guru Gobind Singh arrived.

Also see article Martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadar

[edit] Legacy

17th Century Badshahi Masjid built by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in Lahore
17th Century Badshahi Masjid built by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in Lahore
One of the thirteen gates at the Lahore Fort, this one built by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb and named Alamgir
One of the thirteen gates at the Lahore Fort, this one built by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb and named Alamgir

Aurangzeb's influence continues through the centuries, affecting not only India, but Asia, and the world. He was the first ruler to attempt to impose Sharia law on a non-Muslim country. His critics, principally Hindu, decry this as intolerance, while his mostly Muslim supporters applaud him, some calling him a Pir or Caliph. He engaged in nearly perpetual war, justifying the ensuing death and destruction on moral and religious grounds. He eventually succeeded in the imposition of Islamic Sharia in his realm, but alienated many constituencies, not only non-Muslims, but also native Shi'ites. This led to increased militancy by the Marathas, the Sikhs, and Rajputs, who along with other territories broke from the empire after his death, and to disputes among Indian Muslims. The destruction of Hindu temples remains a dark stain on Muslim/Hindu relations to this day.

Unlike his predecessors, Aurangzeb did consider the royal treasury as a trust of the citizens of his empire and did not use it for personal expenses or extravagant building projects. He left few buildings, save for a modest mausoleum for his first wife, Bibi Ka Maqbara, sometimes called the mini-Taj, in Aurangabad. He also created the Badshahi Masjid mosque (Imperial or Alamgiri Mosque) in Lahore, which was once the largest outside of Mecca. He also added a small marble mosque known as the Moti Masjid (Pearl Mosque) to the Red Fort complex in Delhi. His constant warfare, however, drove his empire to the brink of bankruptcy just as much as the wasteful personal spending and opulence of his predecessors.

Later in his life, Aurangzeb always portrayed himself as a humble person with head bowed in all his paintings.
Later in his life, Aurangzeb always portrayed himself as a humble person with head bowed in all his paintings.

He alienated many of his children and wives, driving some into exile and imprisoning others. At the ebb of his life, he expressed his loneliness and perhaps a regret for his militant intolerant rule. His personal piety, however, is undeniable. Unlike the often alcohol- and women-absorbed personal lives of his Mughal predecessors, he led an extremely simple and pious life. He followed Muslim precepts with his typical determination, and even memorized the entire Qur'an. He knitted haj caps and copied out the Qur'an throughout his life and sold these anonymously. He used the proceeds, and only these, to fund his modest resting place. He died in Ahmednagar in 1707 at the age of 90, having outlived many of his children. His modest open-air grave, in Kuldabad, expresses his strict and deep interpretation of Islamic beliefs.

After Aurangzeb's death, his son Bahadur Shah I took the throne. The Mughal Empire, due both to Aurangzeb's overextension and cruelty and to Bahadur's weak military and leadership qualities, entered a long decline. Immediately after Bahadur Shah occupied the throne, the Maratha Empire (held at bay by Aurangzeb, albeit at a high human and monetary cost) consolidated and launched effective invasions of Mughal territory, seizing power from the weak emperor. Within 100 years of his death, the Mughal Emperor would simply be a puppet of the first, the Maratha Empire and then, the British East India Company, with little power beyond Delhi and ignored by most Indian princes.

[edit] Trivia

  • When the Emperor banned music in the court, the musicians arranged a mock funeral of the "Lady Music". The Emperor who witnessed it commented, "Let her be well and truly buried!"
  • Alamgir (World grabber), as he preferred to style himself, in his old age, regretted the errors he made. [17]. He implored his sons not to engage in a war of succession and left behind a will dividing his empire among them. His sons ignored the will and fought a bitter war of succession.
  • Aurangzeb's son Akbar rebelled against him and ran away to Persia. He wrote a stinging letter to his father.
  • During Aurangzeb reign, the Portuguese born Catholic Dona Juliana Dias da Costa came into his court and eventualy would become harem-queen to his son Bahadur Shah I, and used to rode on a war elephant beside him during battles to defend his authority.
  • Aurangzeb nipped the attempts of the East India Company to gain territory by attacking it in 1687.
  • In 1675, the English poet John Dryden wrote a Aurang-zebe: a tragedy, a play about Aurangzeb's accession.

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ Richards, John F. (1995). The Mughal Empire. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 130,177. ISBN 0-521-56603-7. “Jujhar Singh's outright defiance of this order inflamed Shah Jahan. He sent another large army under the nominal command of the sixteen-year-old Prince Aurangzeb to invade Bundelkhand....When overtaken by Mughal troops, Jujhar Singh's principal queens were killed by their attendants, but the remaining royal women were sent to join the Mughal harem. Two very young sons and a grandson were converted to Islam. Another older son who refused to convert was killed outright. 
  2. ^ The Great Moghuls, Aurangzeb, Discovery Channel
  3. ^ Richards 1995:177
  4. ^ Richards 1995:177. "In many disputed successions for hereditary local office Aurangzeb chose candidates who had converted to Islam over their rivals. Pargana headmen and quangos or recordkeepers were targeted especially for pressure to convert. The message was very clear for all concerned. Shared political community must also be shared religious belief."
  5. ^ Singhal, Damodar Prasad (2003). A History of the Indian People (in English). Cosmo (Publications,India); New Ed edition. ISBN 8170200148. 
  6. ^ Prasad, Ishwari (1965). A Short History of Muslim Rule in India, from the Advent of Islam to the Death of Aurangzeb P 609 (in English). Allahabad. The Indian Press. Private Ltd.. ISBN N/A. 
  7. ^ Lalwani, Kastur Chand (1978). The medieval muddle (Philosophy of Indian history) P90 (in English). Prajñanam. 
  8. ^ Joshi, Rekha (1979). Aurangzeb, Attitudes and Inclinations Pg 34 (in English). Original from the University of Michigan. 
  9. ^ Taylor, Edmond (1947). Richer by Asia P147 (in English). Houghton Mifflin Co.. ISBN N/A. 
  10. ^ a b Mukhia, Harbans,"The Mughals of India" P25,Blackwell Publishing,2004,ISBN 0631185550
  11. ^ a b c d Khan, Saqi Mustad; Jadunath Sarkar (1986 (reprint)). "Maasir-i-' Alamgiri : a history of the emperor Aurangzib-'Alamgir, reign 1658-1707 A. D. / of Saqi Musta'ad Khan ; translated into English and annotated by Jadu-Nath Sarkar" (in English). Oriental books Reprint Corporation. ISBN 8170690013. 
  12. ^ a b Mehta, Jaswant Lal (1987). Advanced Study in the History of Medieval India P362 (in English). Stosius Inc/Advent Books Division; 2nd Rev edition. ISBN 8120705734. 
  13. ^ Firman ordering mansabdar Abulhasan in Benares dt. Feb. 28, 1659, quoted by the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, Page 689-90, 1911
  14. ^ Professor Vinay Lal in
  15. ^ Arun Shourie, Eminent Historians: Their Technology, Their Line, Their Fraud, New Delhi: ASA Publications,1998, ISBN 81-900199-8-8.
  16. ^
  17. ^

[edit] References

  • Essays on Islam and Indian History, Richard M. Eaton. Reprint. New Delhi, Oxford University Press, 2002 (ISBN 0-19-566265-2). -- Eaton's essay "Temple Desecration and Indo-Muslim States", which attempts to comprehend Aurangzeb's motivation in destroying temples, has generated much recent debate
  • The Peacock Throne, Waldemar Hansen (Holt, Rinehart, Winston, 1972). -- a very British accounting of Aurangzeb's reign, but filled with excellent references and source material
  • A Short History of Pakistan, Dr. Ishtiaque Hussain Qureshi, University of Karachi Press.
  • Delhi, Khushwant Singh, Penguin USA, Open Market Ed edition, February 5, 2000. (ISBN 0-14-012619-8)
  • Article on Aurganzeb from MANAS group page, UCLA
  • From Akbar to Aurangzeb
  • Destruction of Hindu Temples by Aurangzeb
  • Aurangzeb- BBC

[edit] Commentary by recent historians

[edit] Wolpert

Stanley Wolpert writes in his New History of India ISBN 0-19-516677-9 (Oxford, 2003)

...Yet the conquest of the Deccan, to which [Aurangzeb] devoted the last 26 years of his life, was in many ways a Pyrrhic victory, costing an estimated hundred thousand lives a year during its last decade of futile chess game warfare...The expense in gold and rupees can hardly be accurately estimated. [Aurangzeb]'s moving capital alone- a city of tents 30 miles in circumference, some 250 bazaars, with a ½ million camp followers, 50,000 camels and 30,000 elephants, all of whom had to be fed, stripped peninsular India of any and all of its surplus gain and wealth... Not only famine but bubonic plague arose...Even [Aurangzeb] had ceased to understand the purpose of it all by the time he..was nearing 90... "I came alone and I go as a stranger. I do not know who I am, nor what I have been doing," the dying old man confessed to his son in Feb 1707. "I have sinned terribly, and I do not know what punishment awaits me."

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] Temple destruction

[edit] A sympathetic view

[edit] Contemporary drama

Preceded by
Shah Jahan
Mughal Emperor
Succeeded by
Bahadur Shah I