Aurangzeb- A Great Mughal?


Aurangzeb, presided over an empire ranging from Ghazni in Afganistan to Chatgaon(Bangladesh) and from Kashmir to the Karnataka.Aurangzeb’s empire was vast than that of Ashoka, or Samudragupta or Harhvardhan.

As a child Aurangzeb was brave & brash.He made a name for himself as Bahadur,by fighting off two elephants.One day his father set a fight between two elephants.Aurangzeb too pushed himself in front to watch the fight.However,after sometime one of the Elephants turned over towards him and charged.He initially threw his spear at the elephant but the elephant continued to confront him and Aurangzeb was thrown from his horse, but he got  up and drew his sword to confront the charging  beast.Aurangzeb did not budge his ground.

When,he was six year old, his father who has lost the battle against his own father Jahangir,had to give his two sons in custody to Jahangir,as ransom.So,probably as a child this event might have had a lasting impression on Aurangzeb, and made him become,what he became.(Even Dara Shikoh could have become like that,but he had different teachers)

Another interesting story,which I would love to share is of Aurangzeb’s campaign in Balkh and Badakshan,which lay beyond Hindukush mountains and were in the way to Samarkand.It goes like this, initially Aurangzeb’s brother Murad was sent in that region, but failed to make any dent as he was loathe to hardships. Shan Jahan,then sent Aurangzeb to conquer the old territories of Babur.

Aurangzeb like an able general managed his troops under an extremely hostile terrain and against fierce Uzbeg hordes.He was fighting against Abdul Aziz Khan.His firmness and skills helped him manage Mughal troops.One day during the evening prayer when the battle was at its hottest,Aurangzeb coolly spread his carpet and said his prayers in the amid the din and strife around him.He was during that time,without armour and shield.His opponents were in awe with him and eventually decided to make peace with him.

It was during his reign that Mughal empire reached its zenith in terms of territories occupied,but by the time he was dying, decline had already started.

Aurangzeb was unpopular as he imposed Jazia(tax on non muslims)and practiced a policy of humiliating and physiologically breaking the Hindu and other communites by desecrating their places of worship(Taliban and Bamiyan Statues,Infact many more destroyed by religious zealots in Swat valley of Pakistan,which was once the cradle of Buddhist expansion).He even got the name of Mathura changed to Islamabad.One day when his way was being blocked by people opposing Jazia, he asked them to move aside, when the crowd did not, he had his Elephants trampled those people.(Guys remember Tiananmen Square(Elephants were working as tanks, during those days)

Shivaji,rose during his reign.It is said that Aurangzeb spent a lot time and money in Deccan,which eventually made his Northern territories weak.Ultimately,one could not rule for long by alienating the majority of population !!

(Reference from : A short history of Aurangzeb by Jadunath Sarkar)


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  • Jeff says:

    Splendid article. Well written.

    Do not agree to the last sentence of your article though. He did rule for about 50 years with the kingdom being the largest ever (in size) in the subcontinent under one ruler (yes more than Ashoka and British). After the conquest of Golconda, Aurangzeb may have even been the richest and most powerful man alive.

    The reasons for the fall of the dynasty subsequent to Aurangzeb in my view can be attributed to the following:
    a. Expenditure on military developments and not on other policies/infrastructure for welfare of the state/people
    b. The Pashtun rebellion leading to closure of the Attock-Kabul trade route
    c. Incompetence of regional nawabs. Unlike Akbar, considering the size of empire Aurangzeb relied on de-centralised management.
    d. Over extended reign of Aurangzeb (till he died at the age of ~90 years) leading to poor quality of successors
    e. Droughts

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