By Bina Biswas
Abul Muzaffar Muhy-ud-Din Muhammad Aurangzeb Alamgir was the sixth Mughal Emperor of India whose reign lasted from 1658 until his death in 1707. The reign of Aurangzeb was Puritan. Alcohol, drugs, court music and poetry and even the official court records were banned. The traditional emperor’s morning audience, Darbar, Jharoka-darshan to public, which was followed by the earlier Mughals was also left behind. He also set up a department to look after public morals and make sure the people were living in strict accordance of the moral code from the holy books. Aurangzeb had hence moved towards a simple life, one that was perhaps unconventional for an emperor of such a vast command. He wrote Arabic in stylistic naskh hand and used to copy Quran in it. Two richly bound and illuminated manuscripts to Makkah and Madinaa, another copy is preserved in Nizamuddeen Aoliya, while other such copies also exist. He weaved skull caps and used to sell them to earn his own living. He built vast mosques around the important Hindu temples at Mathura near Agra and Benares on the Ganges which could be the symbols of Islamic pressure on Hindus far from the earlier policy of Mughal tolerance. The withdrawal of Jizya in 1679, the tax taken from the non-believers was the clear sign of Aurangzeb’s intolerance and Zakat from the Muslims showed his prudence with his own religion. He conducted a military campaign in the same year from Delhi to the Rajputs, once one of the most reliable Mughal’s allies.
Taking advantage from the chaos in Marwar (Jodhpur) with the death of the Maharaja Jaswant Singh, Aurangzeb easily captured the state and destroyed many Hindu temples, therefore, receiving the Hindu’s hatred. The other Rajput state of Mewar (Udaipur) was Aurangzeb’s next unease and target too. Shehzada Akbar, the twenty-three year old son of Aurangzeb was appointed as the commander. However he was not successful and consequently was dismissed from the army by Aurangzeb which became the reason for Akbar’s rebel later on. Supported by the Rajputs who had also common interest, Akbar gathered a powerful army, but it was torn apart by Aurangzeb’s cleverly written letters of conspiracy against his own son.
Akbar escaped as refugee to Deccan in the south on the lands of Hindu Marathas who were not in good relationship with Aurangzeb. The previous chieftain, Shivaji killed Shaista Khan -the Mughal garrison and the brother of Mumtaz in 1663 while he was fighting guerrilla wars against the Mogul. He was identified as the icon of India’s independence struggles with his growing power on Deccan mountains. After the death of Shivaji, his son Shambuji took the reins of fighting the Mughals for a year before Akbar sought refuge. Aurangzeb decided to occupy the enemy Muslim states of Bijapur and Golconda beforehand to ease the attack by the Marathas. He first invaded Bijapur after fifteen months of blockade in June 1685 and the next state of Golconda surrendered after eight month of siege. Meanwhile, Akbar managed to escape to Persia with the help of French merchants. But this could not prevent Aurangzeb’s eagerness to defeat the Marathas. Shambuji was captured and was killed brutally on the order of Aurangzeb because he did not give any clue of his treasury location. In the final years of his reign, Aurangzeb saw before him the steady devastation of his empire and the grievous times that lay ahead. He realized that he had committed many mistakes and urged his sons to undo his mistakes and restore the Mughal empire to its earlier glory, a plea that fallen on the deaf ears. He died in 1707, and was buried in a very plain tomb in Daultabad. The rule of the puritan emperor was unfortunately the biggest disaster of the Mughal empire:
“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 February1707.
He shunned all pomp and show- and austerity was his principle and wanted to rest under the open sky after his death but the ambitious emperor’s military campaigns had been far from simple and inexpensive. During his reign India had an ‘epoch of relative peace and prosperity. Trade had expanded and urban centres had grown up everywhere. The agrarian base was strong enough to support the court, army and the administration, though the peasants had to yield their surplus and did not receive much in return. The revenue demand was oppressive.’
After Aurangzeb's death, his son Bahadur ShahI took the throne. The Mughal Empire, due to Aurangzeb's over-extension and Bahadur Shah's weak military and leadership qualities, entered a period of unalterable decline. Immediately after Bahadur Shah occupied the throne, the Maratha Empire — which Aurangzeb had held at bay, inflicting high human and monetary costs — consolidated and launched effective invasions of Mughal territory, seizing power from the weak emperor. Within 100 years of Aurangzeb's death, the Mughal Emperor had little power beyond Delhi.
What is remarkable is that being the Sovereign of Hindustan...the remarkable Puritanism and austerity shown by him were beyond comparison and our present generation Monarchs of Democracy might likr to learn from this and stop eating people's money and wasting it too on their luxury.