Aurangzeb Alamgir: An Indian Pride


Article compiled by ghazipurwalamakki

 

Of all the Muslim rulers who ruled vast territories of India from 712 to 1857 CE, probably no one has received as much condemnation from Western and Hindu writers as Aurangzeb. He has been castigated as a religious Muslim who was anti-Hindu, who taxed them, who tried to convert them, who discriminated against them in awarding high administrative positions, and who interfered in their religious matters. This view has been heavily promoted in the government approved textbooks in schools and colleges across post-partition India (i.e., after 1947). These are fabrications against one of the best rulers of India who was pious, scholarly, saintly, un-biased, liberal, magnanimous, tolerant, competent, and far-sighted.


 

An Urdu couplet by an unknown poet admirably sums up the historical vilification of the last great Mughal:

Give and take, this much we remember from history; that Aurangzeb was a tyrant, oppressor, and temple desecrator. All the good deeds that he had done remain forgotten as though they never existed.

The man who ruled the largest state ever in Indian history needs a more dispassionate assessment.



                                                 Handwritten Quran by Aurangzeb
Fortunately, in recent years quite a few Hindu historians have come out in the open disputing those allegations. For example, historian Babu Nagendranath Banerjee rejected the accusation of forced conversion of Hindus by Muslim rulers by stating that if that was their intention then in India today there would not be nearly four times as many Hindus compared to Muslims, despite the fact that Muslims had ruled for nearly a thousand years. Banerjee challenged the Hindu

hypothesis that Aurangzeb was anti-Hindu by reasoning that if the latter were truly guilty of such bigotry, how could he appoint a Hindu as his military commander-in-chief?

 




Surely, he could have afforded to appoint a competent Muslim general in that position. Banerjee further stated: “No one should accuse Aurangzeb of being communal minded. In his administration, the state policy was formulated by Hindus. Two Hindus held the highest position in the State Treasury. Some prejudiced Muslims even questioned the merit of his decision to appoint non-Muslims to such high offices.



The Emperor refuted that by stating that he had been following the dictates of the Shariah (Islamic Law) which demands appointing right persons in right positions.” During Aurangzeb’s long reign of fifty years, many Hindus, notably Jaswant Singh, Raja Rajrup, Kabir Singh, Arghanath Singh, Prem Dev Singh, Dilip Roy, and Rasik Lal Crory, held very high administrative positions. Two of the highest ranked generals in Aurangzeb’s administration, Jaswant Singh and Jaya Singh, were Hindus. Other notable Hindu generals who commanded a garrison of two to five thousand soldiers were Raja Vim Singh of Udaypur, Indra Singh, Achalaji and Arjuji. One wonders if Aurangzeb was hostile to Hindus, why would he position all these Hindus to high positions of authority, especially in the military, who could have mutinied against him and removed him from his throne?



Most Hindus like Akbar over Aurangzeb for his multi-ethnic court where Hindus were favored. Historian Shri Sharma states that while Emperor Akbar had fourteen Hindu Mansabdars (high officials) in his court, Shahjehan had 105 and Aurangzeb actually had 148 Hindu high officials in his court. (Ref: Mughal Government) But this fact is somewhat less known.


Some of the Hindu historians have accused Aurangzeb of demolishing Hindu Temples. How factual is this accusation against a man, who has been known to be a saintly man, a strict adherent of Islam? The Qur’an prohibits any Muslim to impose his will on a non-Muslim by stating that “There is no compulsion in religion.” (surah al-Baqarah 2:256). The surah al-Kafirun clearly states: “To you is your religion and to me is mine.” It would be totally unbecoming of a learned scholar of Islam of his caliber, as Aurangzeb was known to be, to do things that are contrary to the dictates of the Qur’an.

Interestingly, the 1946 edition of the history textbook Etihash Parichaya (Introduction to History) used in Bengal for the 5th and 6th graders states: “If Aurangzeb had the intention of demolishing temples to make way for mosques, there would not have been a single temple standing erect in India. On the contrary, Aurangzeb donated huge estates for use as Temple sites and support thereof in Benares, Kashmir and elsewhere. The official documentations for these land grants are still extant.”



A stone inscription in the historic Balaji or Vishnu Temple, located north of Chitrakut Balaghat, still shows that it was commissioned by the Emperor himself.


                                                       Chitrkoot Temple

Aurangzeb granted 300 bighas land for temple at Chitrakut in Ramzan

It was the month of Ramzan, 334 years ago, when Mughal emperor Aurangzeb had granted 330 bighas of land for the Balaji Temple at Chitrakut in present day Uttar Pradesh.

In this holy month, the official decree was issued and the document is in possession of the present pujari Ram Naresh. On the 19th of Islamic month of Ramzan, this firman was written in order to ensure that the idol gets the ‘bhog’ with the earning of the land.


 

In the firman, which is available with Ram Naresh, Aurangzeb writes, ‘Sant Balak Das gets 330 bigha lagaani zameen of eight villages viz. Hinauta, Chitrakot, Devkhari, Raudra, Siria, Madri, Jarwa and Doharia. The firman written in Persian says that apart from this land, the lagaan of Re 1 should be given per day from Kini Paroshtha pargana. Balakdas of Kalinjar Pargana in Allahabad Suba gets this land.’ Chitrakoot is the famous temple town in Uttar Pradesh. Lord Rama spent 11-1/2 years here. It has great religious significance for Hindus.


However, the old arrangemen…t continues till date. Nearly 323 years back Aurangzeb Alamgir had issued a ‘firman’ as per which 8 villages (330 bighas of land) were allotted for the upkeep of the temple besides Re 1 every day from the government fund.

Mahant Balram Das of the temple is in possession of the firmaan that was written on brass plate and issued on 19th of Islamic month of Ramzan. As per the decree Sant Balak Das of Allahabad’s Kalinjar pargana’s Chitrakoot was given 330 bighas of land without any ‘lagaan’. The temple is now in a poor state despite enormous funds at the disposal. The discord amongst Mahants has led to the situation, say locals.



Interestingly, Aurangzeb had not only got the temple constructed but also wrote the order of ‘rajbhog’, himself. The land adjoining the Balaji temple has been encroached by musclemen and the infighting amongst the temple committee has hit the structure, which is crumbling, says the District Magistrate, Chitrakot.


                                                                Umananda Temple , Assam

 

Umananda, the oldest temple of Bhagwan Bhole Shankar situated on the river Brahmaputra in Guwahati, was not only not harmed during emperor Aurangazeb’s conquest of Assam, but was also conferred vast parcels of land. Aurangzeb conquered the area of Kajoli, Bahbari and Pandu along with the Itakhuli Fort from Ahom dynasty. According to History and Culture of Assam, an anthropological research paper published by Kamrup Anushandhan Samitee and edited by S. C. Goswami, the conqueror conferred the ownership of vast tracts of land on the official pujari of the temple of Umananda known as Doloi (Brahmins) in September 1667. The areas of the grant measures 13 square kilometers today. Interestingly, the Government of Assam accepted the demand of the Dolois to exempt them from any taxes on the land. The official declaration (Sanad) of Mughal’s Emperor was written on a stone plate popularly known as “Shilalipi”. Aurangzeb had also sanctioned annual grant to Maa Kamakhya Mandir- another famous temple situated at a distance of 8 kilometres from Umananda on the hill of Nilachaal, Guwahati.


                                                            Jangambari Temple , varanasi



The proof of Aurangzeb’s land grant for famous Hindu religious sites,especially Jangam Bari Math in Kasi, Varanasi can easily be verified from the deed records extant at those sites. The same textbook reads: “During the fifty year reign of Aurangzeb, not a single Hindu was forced to embrace Islam. He did not interfere with any Hindu religious activities.” (p. 138) Alexander Hamilton, a British historian, toured India towards the end of Aurangzeb’s fifty year reign and observed that every one was free to serve and worship God in his own way.



                                                Aurangzeb Mosque,Dhareraha , Banaras



One of the greatest charges against Aurangzeb is of the demolition of Vishwanath Temple in Banaras (Varanasi). That was a fact. But late historian Bishma Narain Pande’s research efforts exploded many facts about Aurangzeb’s rule.


                                                            Gyanvapi mosque ,Banaras
He razed the temple because the Maharani of Kutch, the wife of one of the Hindu Rajput kings loyal to Aurangzeb, was dishonoured and robbed inside the temple.

He razed the temple because the Maharani of Kutch, the wife of one of the Hindu Rajput kings loyal to Aurangzeb, was dishonoured and robbed inside the temple.
The story regarding demolition of Vishvanath temple is that while Aurangzeb was passing near Varanasi on his way to Bengal, the Hindu Rajas in his retinue requested that if the halt was made for a day, their Ranis may go to Varanasi, have a dip in the Ganges and pay their homage to Lord Vishwanath. Aurangzeb readily agreed.

Army pickets were posted on the five mile route to Varanasi. The Ranis made a journey on the Palkis. They took their dip in the Ganges and went to the Vishwanath temple to pay their homage. After offering Puja all the Ranis returned except one, the Maharani of Kutch.

A thorough search was made of the temple precincts but the Rani was to be found nowhere. When Aurangzeb came to know of it, he was very much enraged. He sent his senior officers to search for the Rani. Ultimately, they found that the statue of Ganesh which was fixed in the wall was a moveable one. When the statue was moved, they saw a flight of stairs that led to the basement.




To their horror, they found the missing Rani dishonoured and crying, deprived of all her ornaments. The basement was just beneath Lord Jagannath’s seat. The Rajas expressed their vociferous protests. As the crime was heinous, the Rajas demanded exemplary action. Aurangzeb ordered that as the sacred precincts have been despoiled, Lord Vishvanath may be moved to some other place, the temple be razed to the ground and the Mahant be arrested and punished.

Aurangzeb Firman in Banaras Hindu University

Mughal firman was issued by Aurangzeb just months after becoming the Emperor of India.

But the most interesting thing about this firman is that a copy of is on display in a museum in Banaras Hindu University (BHU).


 



                                                             Ferman Aurangzeb

Translation :

… therefore in accordance with holy law we have decided that the ancient temples shall not be overthrown but that new one shall not be built.
In these days of justice, information has reached our noble and most holy court that certain persons activated by rancour and spite have harassed the Hindu resident in the town of Banaras and a few other places in that neighbourhood.
And also certain Brahmins, keepers of the temples, in whose charge those ancient temples are, and that they further desire to remove these Brahmins from their ancient office (and this intention of their causes distress to that community) therefore our Royal command is that after the arrival of our lustrous order you should direct that in future no person shall in unlawful ways interfere or disturb Brahmins and other Hindus resident in those places.
So that they may remain in their occupation and continue with peace of mind to offer up prayers for the continuance of our God-given empire that is destined to last for all times.

Consider this as an urgent matter.


 


Now let us deal with Aurangzeb’s imposition ofthe jizya tax which had drawn severe criticism from many Hindu historians.


 

It is true that jizya was lifted during the reign of Akbar and Jahangir and that Aurangzeb later reinstated this. Before I delve into the subject of Aurangzeb’s jizya tax, or taxing the non-Muslims, it is worthwhile to point out that jizya is nothing more than a war tax which was collected only from able-bodied young non-Muslim male citizens living in a Muslim country who did not want to volunteer for the defense of the country. That is, no such tax was collected from non-Muslims who volunteered to defend the country. This tax was not collected from women, and neither from immature males nor from disabled or old male citizens.

For payment of such taxes, it became incumbent upon the Muslim government to protect the life, property and wealth of its non-Muslim citizens. If for any reason the government failed to protect its citizens, especially during a war, the taxable amount was returned.

It should be pointed out here that zakat (2.5% of savings) and ‘ushr (10% of agricultural products) were collected from all Muslims, who owned some wealth (beyond a certain minimum, called nisab). They also paid sadaqah, fitrah, and khums. None of these were collected from any non-Muslim. As a matter of fact, the per capita collection from Muslims was several fold that of non-Muslims. Further to Auranzeb’s credit is his abolition of a lot of taxes, although this fact is not usually mentioned.



 

In his book Mughal Administration, Sir Jadunath Sarkar, foremost historian on the Mughal dynasty, mentions that during Aurangzeb’s reign in power, nearly sixty-five types of taxes were abolished, which resulted in a yearly revenue loss of fifty million rupees from the state treasury.

Aurangzeb and Sati

A bigger contribution of Aurangzeb was his 1664 Firman (order) that prohibited the practice of sati.



Sati as we know, was an evil legacy of the Hindus and Aurangzeb issued his order a good 200 years before the British did the same.

How did Aurangzeb treat his deposed father and elder sister Jahanara Begum?

When we read about imprisonment we think of dark cellars, chains and the ferocious prison guards. However Shah Jahan was kept in the private quarters of his royal palace with all of his ladies of harem, music bands, royal kitchen etc to keep him at ease.

 


It is a fact that Shah Jahan never met Aurangzeb after his deposition till his death on 31st January 1666.

However they corresponded often and Shah Jahan’s anger finally gave way to reproach.

 

  • All the contemporary chronicles from the Mughal to the Europeans praise Aurangzeb for the respect and care he took in looking after his captive father.
  • He consulted him like an oracle on all matters of government.
  • It is very rare distinctions for Aurangzeb to have learned from the wise counsel of his father the skills and experiences in ruling a vast empire.
  • Aurangzeb instructed his officials to refer to Shah Jahan as Aala Hazrat (Exhalted One) in their writings and on his death asked him to be referred as Firdous-e-Aashyaani (Light of Paradise).
  • Things cooled down to the level where Shah Jahan sent Aurangzeb precious stones he had once asked for and Shah Jahan had refused preferring to powder them than send it to him.
  • Jahanara begum was allowed to stay and look after her father and Aurangzeb treated her with great respect.
  • After the death of Shah Jahan she became the Begum Sahiba (leading lady) of Aurangzeb’s harem.
  • It is said it was only her who had the right to disagree with the orders of Aurangzeb and argue with him on matters of state policy.
  • It is said that on the request of Jahan Ara, the dying Emperor Shah Jahan pardoned Aurangzeb.

Aurangzeb was, by temperament, an ascetic who avoided all forms of luxury and ostentation; he even refused to wear silk against his body. Aurangzeb limited his reading to works of theology and poetry of a devotional or didactic character, writes Hambly. And the emperor found both music and the representational arts to be distasteful.

 

Exhibit No. 17: “Burial of Music”. The musicians, wailing and lamenting carry the ‘bier’ of music in Aurangzeb’s presence. “Bury it so deep that no sound or echo of it may rise again”, Aurangzeb, (Muntakhab-al Lubab, p.213)


 

Exhibit No. 32: Restriction on atishbazi. Akhbarat-i-Darbar-i- Mu’alla Julus 10, Shawwal 24 / April 9th 1667.
“The Emperor ordered Jumdat-ul-Mulk to write to the Mutsaddis of all the subahs (provinces) of the empire that display of fire-works (atishbazi) is being forbidden. Also, Faulad Khan was ordered to arrange for announcement in the city by the beat of a drum that no one is to indulge in atishbazi”.




Aurangzeb had none of his father’s passion for the arts and architecture. Only a few monuments in Delhi are associated with Aurangzeb’s name. These constructions, note Hambly, include the two massive outer defenses or barbicans protecting the gateway of the Red Fort and the exquisite Moti (Pearl) Mosque at Delhi. This mosque was built inside the palace to provide the emperor with a place for private prayers.

The decoration of this mosque, note Blair and Bloom, is made noteworthy by its exuberant floral carvings. The vases with stems of flowers fill the spandrels and spreading tendrils echo the cusps of the arches which culminate in a fleur-de-lys. In this exquisite mosque, continue Blair and Bloom, the realistic floral motifs that had been typical of the Shah Jahan period became increasingly abstract.


                                                                 Badshahi mosque , Lahore
The most impressive building of Aurangzeb’s reign, write Blair and Bloom, is the Badshahi (Imperial) Mosque which was constructed in 1674 under the supervision of Fida’i Koka. This mosque is adjacent to the fort at Lahore. The Badshahi is the last in the series of great congregational mosques in red sandstone and is closely modeled on the one Shah Jahan built at Shahjahanabad, note Blair and Bloom.


The most impressive building of Aurangzeb’s reign, write Blair and Bloom, is the Badshahi (Imperial) Mosque which was constructed in 1674 under the supervision of Fida’i Koka. This mosque is adjacent to the fort at Lahore. The Badshahi is the last in the series of great congregational mosques in red sandstone and is closely modeled on the one Shah Jahan built at Shahjahanabad, note Blair and Bloom.


                                                     Aurangzeb Pearl Mosque ,Agra Fort
The red sandstone of the walls contrasts with the white marble of the domes and the subtle intarsia decoration. The materials depart from the local tradition of tile revetment that is seen in the Mosque of Vazir Khan. According to Blair and Bloom, the cusped arches and arabesque floral patterns inlaid in white marble give the building, despite its vast proportions, a lighter appearance than its prototype.


                                                   Roshan Ara begum,Auranzeb Daughter
Additional monuments from this period are associated with women from Aurangzeb’s imperial family, writes Hambly. The construction of the elegant Zinat al-Masjid in Daryaganij was overseen by Aurangzeb’s second daughter Zinat al-Nisa. 


 The delicate brick and plaster mausoleum in the Roshan-Ara-Bagh in Sabzimandi was for Aurangzeb’s sister Roshan-Ara who died in 1671. Unfortunately, the tomb of Roshan-Ara and the beautiful garden surrounding it were neglected for a long time and are now in an advanced state of decay.

Of all the men who sat upon the throne in Delhi no name evokes such an image of somber grandeur as that of Aurangzeb. His rule, which stretched across nearly half a century of Indian history, ended with his death in 1707. Despite Aurangzeb’s personal hostility to the arts and his removal of the seat of government to the south, Delhi remained an artistic and cultural center and the foremost city of the empire.


 

Exhibit No. 48: Aurangzeb’s Will. The sketch shows Aurangzeb, now about 89 years old, writing his Will. A Khoja (eunuch) is the only one present at some distance.

Aurangzeb’s Will:-

“Praise to be God and blessing on those servants [of Him] who have become sanctified and have given satisfaction [to Him]. I have some [instructions to leave as my] last will and testament:

FIRST – on behalf of this sinner sunk in iniquity [i.e. myself] cover [with an offering of cloth and capital] the holy tomb of Hasan (on him be peace), because those who are drowned in the ocean of sin have no other protection except seeking refuge with that Portal of Mercy and Forgiveness.

SECOND – Four Rupees and two annas, out of the price of the caps sewn by me, are with Aia Bega, the mahaldar. Take the amount and spend it on the shroud of this helpness creature. Three hundred and five Rupees, from the wages of copying the Quran, are in my purse for personal expense. Distribute them to the faqirs on the day of my death.

THIRD – Take the remaining necessaries [of my funeral] from the agent of Prince Alijah; as he is the nearest heir among my sons, and on him lies the responsibility for the lawful or unlawful [practices at my funeral]; this helpless person (i.e. Aurangzeb) is not answerable for them, because the dead are in the hands of the survivors.

FOURTH – Bury this wanderer in the Valley of Deviation from the Right Path with his head bare, because every ruined sinner who is conducted bare-headed before the Grand Emperor (i.e. God), is sure to be an object of mercy.

FIFTH – Cover the top of the coffin on my bier with the coarse white cloth gazi. Avoid the spreading of a canopy and uncanonical innovations like [processions of] musicians and the celebration of the Prophet’s Nativity (maulud)

SIXTH – It is proper for the ruler of the kingdom (i.e. my heir) to treat kindly the helpless servants who in the train of this shameless creature [Aurangzeb] have been roving in the deserts and wilderness [of the Deccan]. Even if any manifest fault is committed by them, give them in return for it gracious forgiveness and benign overlooking [of the fault].

[SEVENTH, EIGHT, NINTH – His assessment of the Irani, Turani, and the Saiyid nobles and his advice how to treat them keeping in mind their qualities and weaknesses.]

TENTH – As far as possible the ruler of a kingdom should not spare himself from moving about; he should avoid staying in one place, which outwardly gives him repose but in effect brings on a thousand calamities and troubles.

ELEVENTH – Never trust your sons, nor treat them during your lifetime in an intimate manner, because, if the Emperor Shah Jahan had not treated Dara Shukoh in this manner, his affairs would not have come to such a sorry pass. Ever keep in view the saying, ‘The words of a king are barren’.

TWELFTH – The main pillar of government is to be well informed in the news of the kingdom. Negligence for a single moment becomes the cause of disgrace for long years. The escape of the wretch Shiva took place through [my] carelessness, and I have to labour hard [against the Marathas] to the end of my life, [as the result of it].

Twelve is blessed [among numbers]. I have concluded with twelve directions. (Verse).

“If you learn [the lesson], a kiss on your wisdom.

If you neglect it, then alas! alas!” Akkam-i-Alamgir, (Eng. Tr. J.N. Sarkar, Text in Ir. Ms. 8b-10a). There is another will of Aurangzeb in India Office Library MS.1344 p.49b (Sarkar, Aurangzeb, Vol.V, 201). Its chief interest lies in the suggested method of partitioning the empire among his three surviving sons.

 


 (According to wishes of the emperor, his grave made of ‘kuccha’ bricks can still be seen in Aurangabad). 

 


Wending our way through the narrow roads of Khuldabad we reached the next destination Tomb of Emperor Aurangzeb.
We stood there in silence, stunned at the simplicity of the tomb: the tomb of The Great Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. 


                                                                  Auranzeb Shrine
. This man who was endowed with all riches of his ancestors wrote in his will, “No marble sheets should shield me from the sky as I lie there one with the earth.” And just as he desired only the portion where he lay is not covered with marble. The sides covered with plain white sheets. It is left open to sky, with few tulsi plants growing over it.
Earlier the grave was just a plain mound of earth we were told. In 1911, Lord Curzon the then viceroy of India ordered a marble enclosure for the grave. The grave is thus enclosed in a delicately carved, lattice-work grill made of marble.


. His empire extended from Kabul in present Afghanistan to areas in South India bordering Madurai in present Tamil Nadu State.


                                                   Aurangzeb facing a maddened elephant

He was a just ruler and  abolished all non-Islamic practices at his court; abolished Ilahi calendar introduced by Akbar and reinstated Islamic lunar calendar. He enforced laws against gambling and drinking. He abolished taxes on commodities and inland transport duties. He forbade the practice of Emperor being weighed in gold and silver on birthdays.


Aurangzeb did not draw salary from state treasury but earned his own living by selling caps he sewed and selling copies of the Quran he copied by hand.


 

           Mini Taj Mahal for his wife-built by Aurangazeeb 

Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal, in Agra, in loving memory of his wife Mumtaz. His son Aurangzeb, who built the Bibi-Ka-Maqbara as a mausoleum to his wife Rabia-ud-Durrani
Bibi Ka Maqbara is the tomb of Begum Rabia Durani, wife of Emperor Aurangzeb. The arched alcove surmounted by a swelling dome, exhibit the excellence of Persian architecture. The layout and surrounding of the tomb is very much similar to that of Taj but some how the architecture fails to produce the magic of Taj. 



                                                                Aurangzeb Mosque

The tombs of Azam Shah (Aurangzeb’s second son), his wife’s and their daughter’s tomb were in another enclosure.

         While some Hindu historians are retracting the lies, the textbooks and historic accounts in Western countries have yet to admit their error and set the record straight.

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