Aurangzeb (Persian: اورنگزیب) (November 3, 1618 – March 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 notably 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. It is a staple of traditional accounts of his reign that many Hindu temples were defaced and destroyed, and many non-Muslims converted to Islam. The Jizya, a head tax on non-Muslims, was reinstated during his rule.
Aurangzeb ruled Hindustan for 49 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 the history of the subcontinent. 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.
Rise to throne
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 accidentally suffered from severe burns in Agra. This event precipitated a family crisis which had political consequences. Aurangzeb suffered his father's displeasure when he returned to Agra three weeks after the event, instead of 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 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 and Sindh alongside Osman Junaid 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 had ignored the problem, allowing state-neglected 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. These 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.
War of succession
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; 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.
Enforcement of Islamic law
The Mughals had for the most part been tolerant of non-Muslims, allowing them to practice their customs and religion without too much interference. Though certain Muslim laws had been in place (e.g., 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.
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. He (in consultation with clerics), did not allow music. and 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 and any image representing a living being — 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 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. In addition, 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.
It is also 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.
Expansion of the empire
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 along 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 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 to the treasury. 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, again 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.
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.
In economic and political terms, Aurangzeb's rule significantly favored Muslims over non-Muslims:"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.". 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.
Attitudes towards Hindus
Aurangzeb has been widely characterized as being anti-Hindu, unlike other more liberal emperors who 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. The anti-Hindu measures of Aurangzeb were intended to help the orthodox Sunni faith gain prominence in India in an indirect manner. 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. Pro British Indian historian, Sir Jadunath Sarkar has traced the anti-Hindu policies of Aurangzeb from as early a year as 1644 CE. 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. If there had ever been a dark age in the history of the 5000 years old Hindu religion, it was during the reign of Aurangzeb. It would not be an exaggeration to say that they were just "existing and not living." The plight of the Hindus under Aurangzeb can be compared with that of the Jews under Hitler or the kulaks under Stalin. The privileges of riding a horse; flying a flag; growing a moustache, chewing a bectle leaf or tying a turban were reserved only for the muslim members of the Indian society.
Aurangzeb had started a campaign of converting Hindus to Islam en masse, with the ultimate objective of converting Dar-al-Harb (land of infidelity) into Dar-Al-Islam (land of faith). He had been advised by the Qazis to convert the Brahman priests into Islam, for the rest of the Hindus would automatically follow their example; owing to the respect that the Brahman priests enjoyed in the Hindu society. One further point to note is that by a mass conversion of the Brahmans, Aurangzeb had aimed at uprooting Hinduism root and branch, for under the traditional Hindu society, knowledge was the confine of the Brahmans, and if they were converted, then no one could read the ancient scriptures that were written in Sanskrit. Anyone, who did not wish to embrace Islam, had to pay a tax called Jizya. Another instrument of the policy of putting economic pressure on "non-believers" was the granting of rewards to the converts, and the offering of posts in the public service, release from prison, or succession to disputed property, as a reward for accepting Islam.
Hindu temple desecration
No aspect of Aurangzeb's reign is more cited - or more controversial - than the desecrations and destruction of Hindu temples.
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:
- 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
- In Khandela (Rajastan) he killed 300 Hindus in one day for they resisted the destruction of their temple.
- 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]
- 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.
- 66 temples were pulled down in Amber. All Hindu clerks were dismissed from the office of the Imperial empire.
- In Pandhpur, Maharashtra, the Emperor ordered and executed the destruction of temple and butchering of cows within the temple.
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. 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.
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.
Commentators are divided on the issue of whether or not Aurangzeb indiscriminately destroyed temples, with some arguing that he went so far as to protect some of them. eg. Aurangzeb ordered the local officials in Benares to protect the temples and Brahman temple functionaries. Firman ordering mansabdar Abulhasan in Benares dt. Feb. 28, 1659, quoted by the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, Page 689-90, 1911. These commentators 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 practice 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.
Some scholars, like Romila Thapar and M.N. Roy have gone even beyond that, and argue that Aurangzeb 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." These issues continue to be politically contentious in India; for example, Thapar has come under fire from a well-known politician, Arun Shourie, who claims that she "white-washes" the historical record.
Impact of Aurangzeb's reign
This is again a disputed issue. Mainstream historians, such as marxist Irfan Habib (who refers to a severe agrarian crisis), Athar Ali (who blames the never-ending Deccan wars), believe that the real crisis was in the political and economic policies. Some, like Satish Chandra believe in addition 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.
Some (including Hindutva organisations) hold that Aurangzeb's religious expansionist policies and his discriminatory laws in themselves caused social change, in which individuals began to identify and align themselves according religion in the modern sense.
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 the 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.
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 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 was not accepted by other members of Jaswant Singh's family and 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, along with a few Muslim Mansabdar supporters, joined the rebels in the hope of dethroning his father and becoming emperor. The rebels were defeated and Akbar fled south to the shelter of the Maratha Sambhaji, Shivaji's successor. When they were also defeated and Sambhaji was killed, Akbar fled to Persia, where he died.
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 de facto 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 territories.
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 ignored the rise of the Marathas for the next few years. 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 managed to effect a daring 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 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 be spending 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.
The Pashtun rebellion
Along with the Rajputs, the Pashtun tribesmen of the Empire were considered the bedrock of the Mughal Army. They were 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 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. The closure of the important Attock-to-Kabul trade route along the Grand Trunk road was particularly critical. By 1674 the situation had deteriorated to a point where 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.
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 sell a 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, due to 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, and this is said to have attracted the ire of Aurangzeb.
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. The Guru was offered a choice between accepting Islam or death; and he willingly accepted the latter.His response led to his death. The Guru "laid down his life, but not the principles" - SIS DIYA PAR SIRR NA DYA.
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 had made plans to sneak away. It is reported that they abandoned the fort under the cover of darkness, the Mughals were alerted and enagaged them in battle once 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.
Aurangzeb's influence continues through the centuries. 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; it also led 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 considered 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.
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."
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 is undeniable. Unlike the often alcohol- and women-absorbed personal lives of his 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 only the proceeds from 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 over-extension 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 — which had been 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 Aurangzeb's death, the Mughal Emperor was to become a puppet of the Maratha Empire and then the British East India Company, with little power beyond Delhi and ignored by most Indian princes.
- 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. 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 eventually would become harem-queen to his son Bahadur Shah I, and used to ride 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.