Abu Muzaffar Muhiuddin Muhammad Aurangzeb Alamgir (November 3, 1618March 3, 1707), usually known as Aurangzeb, but also sometimes as Alamgir I, was the ruler of the Mughal Empire from 1658 until 1707. He drew strong condemnation due his persecution of non-Muslims and ordering the destruction of many Hindu temples. Supporters, particularly Muslims, praise him for his simple living in the best traditions of the companions of The Prophet himself and his early successors. The latter group has even gone to extent of using the phrase Fifth Rightly Guided Caliph due to his strict adherence to the Islamic policies Sharia and his treatment of non-Muslims according to Sharia.
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Aurangzeb (from Persian, اورنگ‌زیب meaning "befitting the throne") was the third son of the previous emperor Shah Jahan. His eldest brother, Dara Shikoh, was favored for succession.

When the fifth great Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan fell severely ill beginning in 1657, the struggle for succession began like many others before it. (Part of Auranzeb's own childhood and early manhood had been spent as a kind of hostage at his grandfather's court after an earlier rebellion by his father.) Shah Shuja declared himself emperor in Bengal. Aurangzeb also challenged his father and the expected successor, Dara Shikoh, Aurangzeb's elder brother. Despite strong support from Shah Jahan, who had recovered enough from his illness to remain a strong factor in the struggle for supremacy, and Dara's victories over Shah Shuja, Aurangzeb finally defeated Dara. Dara attempted to rally support after this defeat, but was betrayed and turned over to his brother. Aurangzeb beheaded Dara Shikoh on the charge of heresy and, it is said, had his severed head taken to their father. He also ordered the execution of Murad Baksh, who had briefly fought along with Aurangzeb against Dara Shikoh in the battle of Samogarh.

The first Mughal prince to defeat an imperial army, in July 1658 Aurangzeb put his father under house arrest in Agra Fort and took the throne himself. Among the reasons given in scholarship for putting his father under house arrest was that Shah Jahan wanted to build another Taj Mahal, a black one this time. Aurangzeb did not approve of this at all, and called it atrocious waste of money. The conditions of Shah Jahan's detention are the subject of disagreement and legend. Some say that the Fort was a luxurious residence, others say it was restrictive. Legends include one that says that though the Taj is not directly visible from the Sheesh Mahal in the Agra Fort, but it is constructed such that you can see the Taj in its multitude of mirrors.

Up until Aurangzeb's reign, Indian Islam had been informed by mystical Sufi precepts. But based on his conservative interpretation of Islamic principles, Aurangzeb propagated a less mystical, more didactic form of Islam. People have often said that he forcefully converted people to Islam, though this may be a matter of exaggeration. He reimposed Jizyah (a tax on non-Muslims), after a lapse of one hundred seventeen years and is said to have banned some Hindu practices.

He said to have ordered the destruction of several Hindu temples including the ones at Varanasi and Mathura, the holiest of Hindu temples. These acts are documented, but the motivation for the destruction is a matter of much academic and social argument.

The most famous temple of the city of Varanasi is the Vishwanath Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva. The original was supposed to have been built in 1490. In the ensuring years, the temple has been destroyed and rebuilt in various locations several times due to demolitions by Islamic invaders. The Mughal emperor Akbar allowed the temple to be constructed at Gyan Vapi in 1585 but Aurangzeb ordered its demolition in 1669 and constructed a mosque, which still exists. This mosque has minarets towering 71 metres above the Ganges. The traces of the old temple can be seen behind the mosque. The modern-day temple was built across the road by Ahilya Bai of Indore in 1776. However regardless of debate, the fact remains that Aurangzeb ordered the destruction of hundreds and thousands of Hindu temples and is responsible for the deaths and/or forcible conversions of hundreds of thousands of Hindus during his time. These facts and events were documented by Hindu and Mughal scholars at the time of his reign and evidence of these atrocities can be seen throughout India.

Another famous temple at Mathura was the Kesava Deo temple, which Hindus believe was the birth place of Shri Krishna. Auragzeb ordered the demolition of the temple and constructed Katra Masjid in 1661. Traces of the ancient Hindu temple can be seen from the back, where the modern temple Shri Krishna Janamsthan or Janambhoomi complex stands.

From the standpoint of Aurangzeb's Hindu subjects, the real impact of his policies may have started being felt in 1668–69. Hindu religious fairs were outlawed in 1668, and an edict of the following year prohibited construction of Hindu temples as well as the repair of old ones. Also in 1669, Aurangzeb discontinued the practice, which had been originated by Akbar, of appearing before his subjects and conferring darshan on them, or letting them receive his blessings as one might, in Hinduism, take the darshan of a deity and so receive its blessings. Though the duty (internal customs fees) paid on goods was 2.5%, double the amount was levied on Hindu merchants from 1665 onwards. In 1679, Aurangzeb went so far as to reimpose, contrary to the advice of many of his court nobles and theologians, the jiziya or graduated property tax on non-Muslims, and according to one historical source, elephants were deployed to crush the resistance in the area surrounding the Red Fort of Hindus who refused to submit to jiziya collectors. The historian John F. Richards opines that "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" (p. 177).UCLA History of South Asia (

In 1675, Aurangzeb publicly executed the ninth Sikh Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji. Sikh mythos says that Guru Tegh Bahadur sacrificed himself to save Sikhs who the Emperor had condemned for failure to convert to Islam. This marked a turning point for Sikhism. His successor, Guru Gobind Singh further militarised his followers (see Khalsa). After Aurangzeb killed four of Gobind Singh's sons, Gobind Singh sent Aurangzeb the Zafarnama (Notification of Victory).

Aurangzeb also tried to invade Maharashtra which was then under the leadership of king Shivaji. So fierce were these conflicts around the Deccan that Aurangzeb eventually left the Mogul capital Delhi to take up residence in nearby Khidki, now known as Aurangabad, and he remained there until the end of his life. Though Marathas under Shivaji and his succesors were outnumbered, they offered stiff resistance to Mughals which eventually led to the downfall of the Mughal Empire. Though Aurangzeb could not defeat Shivaji, he captured, tortured and later killed Shivaji's son Sambhaji. Aurangzeb imparted great hardship and destroyed many temples according to his understanding of Islamic teachings, but Marathas refused to give up and after his death established the Maratha empire encompassing Western and North India and thus liberating India from Mughal rulers.

Unlike his predecessors, Aurangzeb left few buildings. He created a modest mausoleum for his first wife, sometimes called the mini-Taj, in Aurangabad. He also built in Lahore what was at the time the largest mosque outside Mecca: the Badshahi Masjid ('Imperial' Mosque, sometimes called the 'Alamgiri' Mosque). He also added a small marble mosque known as the Moti Masjid (Pearl Mosque) to the Red Fort complex in Delhi.

He was a very pious Muslim and lived a relatively simple life. He considered the royal treasury as a trust of the citizens of his empire and that it should not be used for his personal expenses. This is contrary to the general idea of treasury, which was considered as a personal property of the Emperor. Throughout his life, Aurangzeb knitted haj caps and copied out the Qur'an. He sold these works in the marketplace anonymously. He used the proceeds, and only these, to fund his modest resting place. Aurangzeb is the only Great Mughal whose tomb is not marked with a large mausoleum. In conformance with his view of Islamic principles, his body rests in an open-air grave in Kuldabad, near Aurangabad.

He died in Ahmednagar in 1707 at the age of 90, having outlived many of his children.

After Aurangzeb's death, his son Bahadur Shah I took over the throne, and the Mughal Empire, due both to Aurangzeb's overextension and cruelty, and to Bahadur's weak military and leadership qualities, entered a long decline.

Preceded by:
Shah Jahan
Mughal Emperor
Succeeded by:
Bahadur Shah I

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  • A Short History of Pakistan, Dr. Ishtiaque Hussain Qureshi, University of Karachi Press.
  • Article on Aurganzeb ( from MANAS group page, UCLA

See also

External links

fr:Aurangzeb pt:Aurangzeb ja:アウラングゼーブ sv:Aurangzeb


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