Great Mughal emperor
coins of Aurangzeb empire
Early LifeHe was the third son and sixth child of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal. In June 1626, after an unsuccessful rebellion by his father, Aurangzeb and his brother Dara Shukoh were kept as hostages under their grandparents' (Nur Jahan and Jahangir) Lahore court. On 26 February 1628, Shah Jahan was officially declared the Mughal Emperor, and Aurangzeb returned to live with his parents at Agra Fort. His daily allowance was fixed at Rs. 500, which he spent on religious education and the study of history. Fond of learning, Aurangzeb mastered over Arabic and Persian with the comparable fluency and learnt Quran and Hadith. Mohammad Saleh Kamboh and Mir Mohammad Hashim were his teachers in his early years. He was taught writing in Naskh mold of writing which is used to the holy verses of Quran. His writing masterpieces of Quran are present in Makkah and Medina along with on the shrine of Nizam-ud-Din Aulia.
Title of Bahadur
Military career and expeditions
Expedition of BandelkhandIn 1635, Jhujhar Singh, a turncoat of Bandelkhand stood against the Emperor which infuriated the later and he ordered to attack Bandelkhand from three sides. Abdullah Khan Bahadur Firoz attacked it from the north with 6000 soldiers, Khan-e-Dauran from the west accompanied by 6000 men, and Syed Khan-e-Jahan from Badayun with 10,500 men. Aurangzeb led the expedition with 10,000 men at the age of 16. The battle was won by Aurangzeb who hoisted his flag on the terrace of Jahangir Mahal on October 4, 1635 and captured Orchha, the capital of Bandelkhand. Devi Singh was appointed the new governor of Bandelkhand and Jhujhar Singh succeeded to escape. Aurangzeb was only 18 then.
Viceroy of DeccanIn 1636, the Emperor Shahjahan sent him as the viceroy of the Deccan where he stayed till 1644. His letters bear testimony to the fact that during his regime he did his best to settle the newly conquered territory, promote agriculture and improve the revenues of the state. Aurangzeb soon acquired the same position in the reign of his father as the latter had enjoyed in that of his own father Jahangir. He was looked upon as the ablest general in the empire.
Dismissal from the Viceroyalty of DeccanIn 1644, Jahan Ara Begum, the daughter of Shah Jahan and sister of Aurangzeb got burnt accidentally while the Emperor was away from the palace. After three weeks, he came back strived for the recovery of the princess Jahan Ara Begum. He took care of her wounded daughter. Aurangzeb suffered his father's displeasure by not returning to Agra immediately but rather three weeks later. Shah Jahan was outraged to see Aurangzeb enter the interior palace compound in military attire and immediately dismissed him from his position of viceroy of the Deccan; Aurangzeb was also no longer allowed to use red tents or to associate himself with the official military standard of the Mughal emperor. Relations between the two deteriorated the following year, and Aurangzeb was banished from court. He bitterly accused the emperor of favoring Dara Shikoh.
Governor of GujratIn 1646, he appointed Aurangzeb Governor of Gujarat. The following year, the 28-year-old Aurangzeb also took up the governorships of Balkh (Afghanistan) and Badakhshan (Tajikistan) on the empire's vulnerable northern flank. Although Aurangzeb had a lot of success in extending Mughal rule north and westward, in 1652, he failed to take the city of Kandahar (Afghanistan) from the Safavids. His father again recalled him to the capital. Aurangzeb would not languish in Agra for long, though - that same year, he was sent south to govern the Deccan once more.
Accession of Aurangzeb
- Emperor Shah Jahan fell seriously ill in 1657 and Aurangzeb feared that Dara Shikoh might take over the crown. A fierce war of succession among the brothers followed and Aurangzeb eventually emerged victorious. He displayed ruthless determination and excellent strategic skills during the war with his brothers.
- He imprisoned Shah Jahan in his own place in Agra, and had his brothers, nephew, and even a son of his own killed in his craze to attain the crown. After eliminating all his rivals, Aurangzeb became the Mughal Emperor and arranged for his coronation on 13 June 1659 at Red Fort, Delhi.
- Known for his brutality and intolerance, he also executed several other noted personalities including Sarmad Kashani a controversial Sufi mystic and Sambhaji the leader of the Maratha Confederacy.
- An orthodox Sunni Muslim, Aurangzeb decided not to follow the liberal religious viewpoints of his predecessors. He planned to establish the nation as an Islamic state and restricted Hindu festivals and destroyed many Hindu temples. He gained much notoriety for his crimes and brutality against people of other religions. He demolished the Christian settlements near the European factories and had the Sikh leader Guru Tegh Bahadur executed when he refused to convert to Islam.
- He implemented several restrictive policies and banned alcohol, gambling, music, and narcotics in the Mughal Empire. Further he imposed discriminatory taxes on non-Muslims and dismissed many Hindus from their jobs. He also forced several non-Muslims to convert to Islam or face dire consequences.
- As an emperor he was also very determined to expand the territories under his rule. The Mughal Empire was constantly engaged in warfare during Aurangzeb’s reign. He conquered the Adil Shahis of Bijapur and Qutbshahis of Golconda, in addition to the annexation of the Ahmednagar Sultanate. Over his long reign he was also successful in expanding his empire in the south as far as Tanjore (now Thanjavur) and Trichinopoly (now Tiruchchirappalli).
- Aurangzeb was a very dominating, cruel, and authoritarian ruler, and his subjects were highly dissatisfied. Several rebellions arose during his reign which included revolts by the Marathas and the Rajputs. The Mughal emperor was able to crush the revolts and consolidate his powers, but the constant warfare severely depleted the Mughal treasury and army, and weakened the emperor’s strength.
- During his reign he was able to expand the Mughal Empire to 3.2 million square kilometers, and was probably the richest and most powerful man alive at one point of his life. But the glory of his empire was short-lived. His constant engagement in warfare and the numerous revolts against him had considerably weakened the roots of the empire and it did not take the empire long to collapse following Aurangzeb’s death.
Enforcement of Islamic Law
- According to his interpretation, Islam did not allow music, so he banished court musicians, dancers, and singers.
- 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 images were destroyed in this way.
- Aurangzeb gave up 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.
- Aurangzeb began to enact and enforce a series of edicts—with less tolerance for non-Muslims, and with harsh punishments. Most significantly, Aurangzeb initiated laws that specifically interfered with non-Muslim worship. These included the destruction of non-Muslim worship sites, a prohibition of non-Muslim religious gatherings, the closing of non-Muslim religious schools, and prohibitions of specific Hindu practices such as sati (self-immolation by widows), and temple dance. Often the punishment for breaking such laws was death.
- He also enforced "jizya" which is a poll tax payed by non muslims to muslim rulers so that they can practice their religious activities and in return protected by the muslim government.
Conversion of non-muslimsDuring Aurangzeb's reign many Indians converted to Islam. "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." (Richards 1996, 177). While some conversions were likely based only on practical considerations, clearly others converted out of sincere belief,at least in part inspired by Aurangzeb.
Revolt against Aurangzeb
Hindu RebillionMany Hindu subjects rebelled against Aurangzeb's policies. From the beginning of his reign, Aurangzeb permitted and 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. Hindu religious fairs were outlawed in 1668. The following year he prohibited construction of Hindu temples as well as the repair of old ones. In 1671, Aurangzeb issued an order that only Muslims could be landlords of crown lands. He called upon provincial viceroys to dismiss all Hindu clerks. In 1674, certain lands held 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 Jizyah tax on non-Muslims. In 1668, the Hindu Jats in the Agra district revolted. Though they suffered horrendous loss of life, the revolt continued for years. In 1681, the Jats attacked and desecrated Akbar's tomb in Sikandra. In 1672, the Satnamis, a Hindu sect concentrated in an area near Delhi, staged an armed rebellion, plundering villages and defeating Mughal forces in a press toward Delhi. Aurangzeb sent an army of ten thousand, including his Imperial Guard, and put the rebellion down at great cost of life.
Deccan war and rise of maratha
Sikhs confrontationEarly 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. Aurangzeb regarded this popularity as a potential threat, and was determined to subdue it. But Mughal skirmishes with the increasingly militant Sikhs continued. Sikhs 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. At length Guru Tegh Bahadur was arrested and beheaded, giving his life to protect the brahmins. His execution infuriated the Sikhs. In response, his son and successor, Guru Gobind Singh further militarized his followers. Sikhs engaged in numerous battles against the Mughals, and though often outnumbered, succeeded in gaining more and more territory.
Legacy of Aurangzeb
- He was the first ruler to attempt to impose Sharia law on a non-Muslim country.
- Unlike his predecessors, Aurangzeb considered the royal treasury as a trust of the citizens of his empire and that it should not be used for his personal expenses. But his constant warfare drove his empire to the brink of bankruptcy as much as the personal profligacy of earlier emperors had done.
- In contrast to his predecessors, Aurangzeb left few buildings. He created a modest mausoleum for his first wife, sometimes called the mini-Taj mahal, in Aurangabad. He also built in Lahore what was at the time the largest mosque outside Mecca: the Badshahi Masjid (“Imperial” Mosque, sometimes called the “Alamgiri” Mosque). He also added a small marble mosque known as the Moti Masjid (Pearl Mosque) to the Red Fort complex in Delhi.
- Aurangzeb's personal piety is undeniable. He led an extremely simple and pious life. He followed Muslim precepts with his typical determination, and even memorized the Qur'an. He knitted haj (pilgrimage) caps and copied out the Quran's throughout his life, and sold these works anonymously. He used the proceeds, and only these, to fund his modest resting place.