Aurangzeb Alamgir was the sixth and the last great mughal emperor of India. He ruled India from 1658 to 1707 AD. He was one of the greatest mughal emperors and lived a very simple life. He lived on a small quantity of food, he used to write the Holy Quran with his own hand and sell them to earn extra wages. If he wanted, he could have lived a life of extra ordinary luxury as the, emperors, kings, nawabs, rajas, maharajas did in those days.
Aurangzeb was a well-read man, he kept up his love of books till the end. He wrote beautiful Persian prose. A selection of his letters (Ruq’at-i-Alamgiri) has long been a standard model of simple but elegant prose. He understood music well but he gave up this amusement in accordance with Islamic injunctions.
Emperor Aurangzeb is considered as the greatest of all the mughal kings. The mughal state reached its height under his leadership. The state has 29.2% of the world population under its flag (175 million out of 600 million in 1700 AD) and was one of the richest states the world had ever seen, with a world GDP of 24.5% ($ 90.8 billion out of $ 371 billion in 1700).
Of all the Muslim rulers who ruled vast territories of India from 712 to 1857AD, 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 them in awarding high administrative positions, and who interfered in their religious matters.
This view has been heavily promoted in the government approved text books 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.
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 was 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. A number of non-Muslims including Hindus, Sikhs, Marathas and Jats, were employed by him in his court. He did not compromise on the fundamentals of Islam, which are in fact the moving spirit of every faith. Historical facts must be interpreted in their true and objective spirit, and not subjectively as expressed by the Hindu writers.
Dr. Bishambhar Nath Pande’s views
The late scholar and historian, Dr. Bishambhar Nath Pande’s research efforts exploded myths on Aurangzeb’s rule. They also offer an excellent example of what history has to teach us if only we study it dispassionately.
Mr. Pande was ranked among the very few Indians and very fewer still Hindu historians who tried to be a little careful when dealing with such history. He knew that this history was ‘originally compiled by European writers’ whose main objective was to produce a history that would serve their policy of divide and rule.
In his famous Khuda Bakhsh Annual Lecture (1985) Dr. Pande said: “Thus under a definite policy, the Indian history text books were so falsified and distorted as to give an impression that the medieval (i.e., Muslim) period of Indian history was full of atrocities committed by Muslim rulers on their Hindu subjects and the Hindus had to suffer terrible indignities under Muslim rule and there were no common factors (between Hindus and Muslims) in social, political and economic life.”
Therefore, Dr.Pande was extra careful. Whenever he came across a ‘fact’ that looked odd to him, he would try to check and verify rather than adopt it uncritically.
He came across a history text book taught in the Anglo-Bengali College, Allahabad, which claimed that “three thousand Brahmins had committed suicide as Tipu Sultan wanted to convert them forcibly into the fold of Islam.”
The author was a very famous scholar, Dr.Har Prasad Shastri, head of the department of Sanskrit at Kolkata University. (Tipu Sultan (1750-99), who ruled over the South Indian state of Mysore (1782-99), is one of the most heroic figures in Indian history. He died on the battle field, fighting the British.)
Was it true? Dr. Pande wrote immediately to the author and asked him for the source on which he had based this episode in his text-book.
After several reminders, Dr. Shastri replied that he had taken this information from the Mysore gazetteer. So Dr. Pande requested the Mysore university Vice-Chancellor, Sir Brijendra Nath Seal, to verify for him Dr. Shastri’s statement from the gazetteer.
Sir Brijendra referred his letter to Prof. Srikantia who was then working on a new edition of the gazetteer. Srikantia wrote to say that the gazetteer mentioned no such incident and, as a historian himself, he was certain that nothing like this had taken place.
Prof. Srikantia added that both the Prime Minister and Commander-In-Chief of Tipu Sultan were themselves Brahmins.
He also enclosed a list of 136 Hindu temples which used to receive annual grants from the Sultan’s treasury. It inspired that Shastri had lifted this story from Colonel Miles, History of Mysore, which Miles claimed he had taken from a Persian manuscript in the personal library of Queen Victoria. When Dr. Pande checked further, he found that no such manuscript existed in Queen Victoria’s library.
False History provided by Britishers
British historian Sir Henry Elliot remarked that Hindus “had not left any account which could enable us to gauge the traumatic impact the Muslim conquest and rule had on them?” Since there was none, Elliot went on to produce his own eight-volume history of India with contributions from British historians (1867).
His history claimed Hindus were slain for disputing with ‘Mohammedans’, generally prohibited from worshipping and taking out religious processions, their idols were mutilated, their temples were destroyed, they were forced into conversion and marriages and were killed and massacred by drunk Muslim tyrants.
Thus Sir Henry, and scores of other empire scholars, went on to produce a synthetic Hindu verses Muslim history of India, and their lies became a history.
Lord Curzon (Governor General of India 1895-99 and Viceroy 1899-1904(d.1925) was told by the secretary of state for India, George Francis Hamilton, that they should “so plan the educational textbooks that the differences between community & community are further strengthened.”
Another Viceroy, Lord Dufferin (1884-88), was advised by the secretary of state in London that the “division of religious feelings is greatly to our advantage’’, and that he expected “some good as a result of your committee of inquiry on Indian education & on teaching material ’’.
“We have maintained our power in India by playing – off one part against the other’’, the secretary of state for India reminded yet another viceroy, Lord Elgin (1862-63), “And we must continue to do so. Do all you can, therefore to prevent all having a common feeling?”
Myth related to destruction of Temples
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 & 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 & support thereof in Benaras, 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. His administration made handsome donation to temple of Pandharpur – seat of deity Vitthal. Historian the late D.G Godse has claimed that trustees of Vitthal temple were more worried about marauding Maratha armies than the mughal one.
The proof of Aurangzeb’s land grant for famous Hindu religious sites in Varanasi can easily be verified from the deed records extant at those sites.
The same textbook (Etihash Parichaya) 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”.
Alexander Hamilton, a British historian, toured India towards the end of Aurangzeb’s fifty year’s reign and observed that everyone was free to serve and worship god in his own way. The Mughal emperor Aurangzeb is the most reviled of all the Muslim rulers in India. He was supposed to be a great destroyer of temples and oppressor of Hindus, and a ‘fundamentalist’ too.
As chairman of the Allahabad municipality (1948-53), Dr. Bishambhar Nath Pande had to deal with a land dispute between two temple priests. One of them had filed in evidence some firmans (royal orders) to prove that Aurangzeb had, besides cash, gifted the land in question for the maintenance of his temple.
Might they not be fake, Dr. Pande thought in view of Aurangzeb’s fanatically anti-Hindu image?
He showed them to his friend, Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, a distinguished lawyer as well a great scholar of Arabic and Persian. He was also a Brahmin. Sapru examined the documents and declared they were genuine firmans issued by Aurangzeb.
For Dr. Pande, this was a ‘new image of Aurangzeb’, so he wrote to the chief priests of the various important temples, all over the country, requesting photocopies of any firman issued by Aurangzeb that they may have in their possession. The response was overwhelming; he received copies of firmans of Aurangzeb from the great temples of Mahakaleshwara, Ujjain, Balaji temple, Chitrakut, Umanand temple Gauhati, and the Jain temple of Shatrunjai and other temples and gurudwaras scattered over northern India. These firmans were issued from 1659 to 1685AD.
Though these are only few instances of Aurangzeb's generous attitude towards Hindus and their temples, they are enough to show that what the historians have written about him was biased and is only one side of the picture.
India is a vast land with thousands of temples scattered all over. If proper research is made, I am confident, many more instances would come to light which will show Aurangzeb’s benevolent treatment of non-Muslims.
Aurangzeb did not indiscriminately destroy Hindu temples, as he is commonly believed to have done so. And, that he directed the destruction of temples only when faced with insurgency.
This was almost certainly the case with the Keshava Rai temple in the Mathura region, where the Jats rose in rebellion and yet even this policy of reprisal may have been modified, as Hindu temples in the Deccan were seldom destroyed.
The image of Aurangzeb as an idol – breaker may not withstand scrutiny, since there is evidence to show that, like his predecessors, he continued to confer land grants or jagirs (large parcel of agricultural lands) upon Hindu temples, such as the Someshwar Nath Mahadev temple Allahabad, Jangum Badi Shiva temple in Varanasi, Umanand temple in Gauhati and numerous others.
He did not harm to the famous Alura temples (a huge complex of Ancient temples) in his conquest of Deccan.
Demolition of Kashi Vishwanath Temple
Dr. Pande’s research showed that Aurangzeb was as solicitous of the rights and welfare of his non-Muslim subjects as he was of his Muslim subjects. Hindu plaintiffs received full justice against their Muslims respondents and, if guilty, Muslims were given punishment as necessary.
One of the greatest charges against Aurangzeb is of the demolition of Vishwanath temple in Varanasi. That was a fact, but Dr. Pande unraveled the reason for it.
“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 journey to the palkis. They took their dip in the Ganges and went to the Vishwanath temple to pay their homage. After offering puja (worship) 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 about this, he was very much enraged. He sent his senior officers to search for the Rani. Ultimately they found that statue of Ganesh (the elephant – headed god) 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 dishonored and crying deprived of all her ornaments. The basement was just beneath Lord Vishwanath’s seat.”
"The Raja demanded salutary action, and Aurangzeb ordered that as the sacred precincts have been despoiled, Lord Vishwanath may be moved to some other place, the temple be razed to the ground and the Mahant (head priest) be arrested and punished.”
Employment for Non-Muslims
Aurangzeb has often been accused of closing the doors of official employment on the Hindus, but a study of the list of his officers shows this is not so. Actually there were more Hindu officers under him than under any other Mughal emperor. Though this was primarily due to a general increase in the number of officers, it shows that there was no ban on the employment of Hindus.
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 them 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, Jay 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 Jay 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, and 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 admire Akbar over Aurangzeb for his multi-ethnic court where Hindus were favored. Historian Shri Sharma states that while Emperor Akbar had 14 Hindu Mansabdars (high officials) in his court, Aurangzeb actually had 148 Hindu high officials in his court (Ref: Mughal Govn.). But this fact is somewhat lesser known.
If Aurangzeb was so ferocious a communalist, why is it, some historians have asked, that the number of Hindu employed in positions of eminence under Aurangzeb’s reign rose from 24.5% in the time of his father Shah Jahan to 33% in the fourth decade of his own rule?
Jizya and other Taxes
Now let us deal with Aurangzeb’s imposition of the 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 defence 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).
The Muslims 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 Aurangzeb’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, mention’s that during Aurangzeb’s reign in power, nearly 65 types of taxes were abolished, which resulted in a yearly revenue loss of 50 million rupees from the state treasury.
Other historians stated that when Aurangzeb abolished 80 types of taxes, no one thanked him for his generosity. But when he imposed only one (jizya), not heavy at all, people began to show their displeasure. 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.
Some important points related to charactor of Aurangzeb
Just think a man of such character, caliber that cares and concern for public can be unjust, cruel. Just imagine a king such cruel and unjust to the majority could rule a huge country, for about 50 years, where high majority members serving highest position and comprising 80% in the military.
He was so pious and the best character person noble and just througout his tenure. You cannot find a single one in the present leaders. His personal piety however is undeniable. He led an exemplary simple pious life. He cares for the royal treasury as public treasury and for public. The present leaders considers public treasury to personal treasury.
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. He was Subedar in Deccan and Gujarat. He didn’t destroy any temple. His period was peaceful and prosperous, called golden period.
Despite more than two decades he campaigned as subedar in Deccan and Gujarat there is no record of temple destruction in the region. He continued to confer Jagirs to Hindu temples. His period was golden period and relatively peaceful, prosperous in his tenure.
Aurangzeb is maligned that he was against Art and Music. But the fact is that he was an accomplished musician playing VEENA. The largest numbers of books on classical Indian music in Persian were written during Aurangzeb’s reign, but banned all nude dances.
Aurangzeb's cruelty is mere rumors or at best lies invented by Hindu bigotry during colonial period through British historians who wanted to weaken India by their divide and rule policy. So that Indians do not become united and put a fight against the British rule. Bankim Chatterjee, who served his whole life to British government, was a tool of this conspiracy, and divide and rule theory.
Aurangzeb was so concerned about duties; he did not miss prayers even during the ongoing war. He spread his prayer rug and prayed in the midst of battle ground, brought him much fame. He stopped all bad things, which today everybody want.
Aurangzeb forbade sati, drinking, gambling, prostitution, devadasies, dancing in brothels, ashrams and mutts. He put jizya to Dhimmis (non-believers) which around 2.5% like Muslim pay their Zakat, 2.5% eligible person should pay. The old, women, children were exempted. Only the young man who didn’t want to serve in the army should pay the jiziya. Indian parliament still hung the bill of Lok Pal, whereas Aurangzeb was the only ruler who appointed Lok Pal to control corruption in Judiciary, Finance and other departments.
He appointed Muhattasib (Lok Pal) to control injustice and atrocities. The Brahmins and higher caste Hindus now found themselves facing Islamic law courts for the atrocities on lower castes Hindus. He was best knowledgeable and brilliant administrator. He never tolerateed injustice. He was a brave soldier and best commander in the field. He was the only who controlled Deccan and Bijapur dynasty.
Under his leadership, in particular, he led Mughal forces in the conquest of the Deccan, seizing first the Golkunda and Bijapur Sultanates, and then attacking the Maratha chieftains. He annexed all the Maratha territories. He left Shivaji because he was no threat to his kingdom.
These are the few evidence of his greatness. The Brahmins and higher caste were subject to Aurangzeb justice. They maligned,created, invented and fabricated all baseless stories to twist history, and to meet their end in both pre and post independent India.
This is all about emperor Aurangzeb. I am confident that when you will go through all these facts and figures your perception towards this Mughal emperor will change. Our nation had never seen an emperor like Aurangzeb. Our medieval history consists of various false stories. History must be taught as it was, without twist and extra spice.
Like it or not, history is just a story and should be narrated honestly. By removing the nameplate from a road no one can remove the great Aurangzeb from world's history. Brave people do not alter the facts from within existing history. Rather, they try to place themselves in the upcoming history.
[Brijendra Singh, the writer has done PGDM course from I.I.S.E Business School Lucknow. He says he is not a student of history but likes to read history out of interest. In this article he has tried to provide some facts related to Emperor Aurangzeb whose image as a person and as a ruler is negative among the Indian citizens. Published in Eastern Crescent and on Social media platforms]