Introduction

Aurangzeb, Emperor Shah Jahan’s sixth child, was born on 24th October 1618 at Dohad in Madhya Pradesh, and wrested India’s crown from his father before the end of June 1658, after defeating his brother Crown Prince Dara Shukoh’s armies, first at Dharmat near Ujjain (15th April 1568) and again at Samugarh on 29th May 1658. The War of Succession to the richest throne in the world was practically over with this victory, and Aurangzeb secured his position by making Murad, his brother and accomplice in his impetuous pursuit for power, his prisoner, by treachery, on 25th June. He had already made his old father Emperor Shah Jahan a prisoner in the Agra Fort (8th June 1658).

Shah Jahan survived his confinement by nearly eight years and the disgraceful manner of his burial (Exhibit No. 6) will ever remain a stigma on this unscrupulous son. Aurangzeb’s advent to the throne in his father’s life time was not welcomed by the people of India because of the treacherous manner it was achieved; but public opinion became all the more hostile towards him when Prince Dara Shukoh, the favourite son of Shah Jahan, the translator of the Upanishads (Exhibit No. 2), and a truly liberal and enlightened Musalman, was taken prisoner on the Indian border, as he was about to enter Persia. Dara was paraded in a most undignified manner on the streets of Delhi on 29th August 1659. The French Doctor, Bernier, was an eye-witness to the scene and was deeply moved by the popular sympathy for Dara (Exhibit No. 3) which so much alarmed Aurangzeb that he contrived to obtain a decree from his Clerics announcing death-sentence for his elder brother on the charge of apostasy (Exhibit No. 5).

Throughout the War of Succession, Aurangzeb had maintained that he was not interested in acquiring the throne and that his only object was to ward off the threat to Islam, which was inevitable in case Dara Shukoh came to power. Many, including his brother Murad, were deceived by this posture. After his formal accession in Delhi (5th June 1659) he posed as a defender of Islam who would rule according to the directions of the Shari’at, and with the advice of the Clerics or Ulama for whom the doctrines, rules, principles and directives, as laid down and interpreted in the 7th and 8th century Arabia and Iraq, were inviolable and unchangeable in all conditions, in all countries, and for all times to come. One of the main objectives of Aurangzeb’s policy was to demolish Hindu Temples. When he ordered (13th October 1666) removal of the carved railing, which Prince Dara Shukoh had presented to Keshava Rai Temple at Mathura, he had observed ‘In the religion of the Musalmans it is improper even to look at a Temple’, and that it was totally unbecoming of a Muslim to act like Dara Shukoh (Exhibit No. 8). This was followed by destruction of the famous Kalka Temple in Delhi (Exhibit Nos. 16 & 17).

In 1669, shortly after the death of Mirza Raja Jai Singh of Amber, a general order was issued (9th April 1669) for the demolition of Temples and established schools of the Hindus throughout the empire and banning public worship (Exhibit Nos. 19 & 20). Soon after this, the great Temple of Keshava Rai was demolished (Jan.-Feb. 1670) (Exhibit No. 23 & 24) and in its place a lofty mosque was erected. The idols, the author of Maasir-i-‘Alamgiri informs, were carried to Agra and buried under the steps of the mosque built by Begum Sahiba, in order to be continually trodden upon by the Musalmans, and the name of ancient and sacred town Mathura was changed to Islamabad. The painting (Exhibit No. 24) is thus no fancy imagination of the artist but depicts what actually took place.

This was followed by Aurangzeb’s order to demolish the highly venerated Temple of Vishwanath at Banaras (Persian Text, Exhibit No. 22), Keshava Rai Temple (Jan.-Feb. 1670) (Persian Text and Painting, Exhibit Nos. 23 & 24), and of Somanatha (Exhibit No. 21). To save the idol of Shrinathji from being desecrated, the Gosain carried it to Rajputana, where Maharana Raj Singh received it formally at Sihad village, assuring the priest that Aurangzeb would have to trample over the bodies of one lakh of his brave troops, before he could even touch the idol (Exhibit No. 25)

Aurangzeb’s zeal for Temple destruction became much more intense during war conditions. The opportunity to earn religious merit by demolishing hundreds of Temples soon came to him in 1679 when, after the death of Maharaja Jaswant Singh of Jodhpur in the Kabul Subah, he tried to eliminate the Rathors of Marwar as a political power in Rajputana. But Maharana Raj Singh of Mewar, in line with the great traditions of his House, came out in open support of the Rathors. This led to war with both Mewar and Marwar during which the Temples built on the bank of Rana’s lake were destroyed by his orders (Exhibit No. 31) and also about two hundred other Temples in the environs of Udaipur (Exhibit No. 33), including the famous Jagannath Rai Temple built at a great cost in front of the Maharana’s palace which was bravely defended by a handful of Rajputs (Exhibit Nos. 32 & 34).

Not only this, when Aurangzeb visited Chittor to have a view of the famous fort, he ordered the demolition of 63 Temples there which included some of the finest Temples of Kumbha’s time and even earlier (Exhibit No. 35). From Marwar (in Western Rajasthan) alone were brought several cart-loads of idols which, as per Aurangzeb’s orders, were cast in the yard of the Court and under the steps of Jama Masjid (Exhibit No. 30). Such uncivilized and arrogant conduct of the Mughal Emperor alienated the Hindus for ever, though they continued to be tolerant towards his creed.

In June 1681, orders, in a laconic two-liner, were given for the demolition of the highly venerated Jagannath Temple in Orissa (Exhibit No. 38). Shortly afterwards, in September 1682, the famous Bindu-Madhav Temple in Banaras was also demolished as per the Emperor’s orders (Exhibit No. 42). On 1st September 1681, while proceeding to the Deccan, where his rebel son Prince Akbar, escorted by Durga Das Rathore, had joined Chhatrapati Shivaji’s son, Shambhaji, thus creating a serious problem for him, Aurangzeb ordered that all the Temples on the way should be destroyed. It was a comprehensive order not distinguishing between old and newly built Temples (Exhibit No. 40). But in the district of Burhanpur, where there were a large number of Temples with their doors closed, he preferred to keep them as such, as the Muslims were too few in number in the district and no purpose would have been served by giving them the shape of mosques so that the Muslims could perform namaz in them (Exhibit No. 41). In his religious frenzy, even Temples of the loyal and friendly Amber state were not spared, such as the famous Temple of Jagdish at Goner near Amber (Exhibit Nos. 30). In fact, his misguided ardour for Temple destruction did not abate almost till the end of his life, for as late as 1st January 1705 we find him ordering that the Temple of Pandharpur be demolished and the butchers of the camp be sent to slaughter cows in the Temple precincts (Akhbarat 49-7).

The number of such provocative acts of Aurangzeb make a long list but here only a few have been highlighted supported by evidence, mostly contemporary official records of his reign and credible Persian sources.

In obedience to the Quranic injunction, Aurangzeb reimposed Jizyah on the Hindus on 2nd April 1679 (Exhibit No. 27), which had been abolished by Emperor Akbar in 1564, causing widespread anger and resentment among the Hindus of the country. A massive peaceful demonstration against this tax in Delhi was ruthlessly crushed. This hated tax involved heavy economic burden on the vast number of the poor Hindus and caused humiliation to each and every Hindu (Exhibit No. 28). In the same vein were his discriminatory measures against the Hindus in the form of exemption of the Muslims from the taxes (Exhibit No. 12), ban on atishbazi and restriction on Diwali (Exhibit No. 10), replacement of Hindu officials by Muslims so that the Emperor’s prayers for the welfare of Muslims and glory of Islam, which were proving ineffective, be answered (Exhibit Nos. 9 & 15). He also imposed a ban on ziyarat and gathering of the Hindus at religious shrines, such as of Shitla Mata and folk Gods like Pir Pabu (Exhibit No. 18), another ban imposed was on their travelling in Palkis, or riding elephants and Arab-Iraqi horses, as Hindus should not carry themselves with the same dignity as the Muslims! (Exhibit No. 47). In the same vein came brazen attempts to convert Hindus by inducement, coercion (Exhibit Nos. 37 & 39) or by offering Qanungoship (Exhibit No. 36) and to honour the converts in the open Court. His personal directions were that a Hindu male be given Rs.4 and a Hindu female Rs.2 on conversion (Exhibit No. 43). “Continue giving liberally”, Aurangzeb had ordered when it was reported to him that the Faujdar of Bithur, Shaikh Abdul Momin, had converted 150 Hindus and had given them naqd (cash) and saropas (dresses of honour) (Exhibit No. 11). Such display of Islamic orthodoxy by the State under Aurangzeb gave strength and purpose to the resistance movements such as of the Marathas, the Jats, the Bundelas and the Sikhs (Exhibit No. 26).

On the 12th May 1666, the dignity with which Shivaji carried himself in the Mughal court and defied the Emperor’s authority, won him spontaneous admiration of the masses. Parkaldas, an official of Amber (Jaipur State) wrote in his letter dated 29th May 1666, to his Diwan. “Now that after coming to the Emperor’s presence Shivaji has shown such audacity and returned harsh and strong replies, the public extols him for his bravery all the more …” (Exhibit No. 7). When Shivaji passed away on April 1680 at the age of 53 only, he had already carved a sufficiently large kingdom, his Swarajya, both along the western coast and some important areas in the east as well.

Aurangzeb could never pardon himself for his negligence in letting Shivaji escape from his well laid trap and wrote in his Will (Exhibit No. 48) that it made him "to labour hard (against the Marathas) to the end of my life (as a result of it)." He did not realize that it was his own doing: the extremely cruel manner, even for those times, in which he put to death Shivaji’s son, Shambhaji, (Exhibit No. 46) which made the Maratha king a martyr in the eyes of the masses and with that commenced the People’s War in Maharashtra and the Deccan which dug the grave of the Mughal empire.

Till the very end Aurangzeb never understood that the main pillars of the government are the affection and support of the people and not mere compliance of the religious directives originating from a foreign land in the seventh-eighth centuries.

His death after a long and ruinous reign lasting half a century, ended an eventful epoch in the history of India. He left behind a crumbling empire, a corrupt and inefficient administration, a demoralized army, a discredited government facing bankruptcy and alienated subjects.

Prof. V.S. Bhatnagar (Retd.)
Department of History,
University of Rajasthan,
Jaipur, Rajasthan, India

1. Mughal Empire C. 1707

For a minute demarcation of the boundaries of the different subas or provinces of the Empire, the reader may consult Prof. Irfan Habib’s “An Atlas of Mughal Empire”, Oxford University Press, 1982.

2. Prince Dara Shukoh translating the Upanishads.

Prince Dara Shukoh, the eldest son of Emperor Shah Jahan, was like his great ancestor Akbar, a very liberal and enlightened Musalman and a true seeker of truth. Akbar respected all religions - Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism, Jainism, Sikhism, etc., and gave their votaries complete religious freedom. He was ever keen to discuss and understand their religious beliefs, practices and philosophy and, in order to make the Musalmans familiar with the culture, and universal values, philosophy and traditions of India, he had the great epics of India - Ramayana and Mahabharat - translated into Persian. He also arranged for the translation of the Atharva-veda.

Continuing the unfinished work of Emperor Akbar, Prince Dara Shukoh too, assisted by the Indian scholars, got translated Bhagvad Gita, Prabodha Chandrodaya (a philosophical drama written in 1065 A.D.), and Yoga Vasistha into Persian. He also translated fifty two Upanishads, which are the fountain-head of Indian philosophy, with the help of learned Pandits from Banaras, well versed in the Vedas and the Upanishads. The translation of the Upanishads by him entitled Sirr-i-Akbar (The Grand Secret) was completed on the 28th June 1657, shortly before the commencement of the War of Succession, which he lost to his crafty and unscrupulous brother, Aurangzeb who ruled India from 1659-1707.

In the painting above, Dara is shown translating the Upanishads, assisted by Indian scholars.

3. Captive Dara being paraded in Delhi

Scene of Captive Dara being paraded in Delhi. (29th August 1659):

The painting above, based on Dr. Bernier’s eyewitness account, shows a captive Dara Shukoh and his son being carried on an elephant on the streets of Delhi, girt round by troops ready to foil any attempt to rescue the prisoner, and led by Bahadur Shah on an elephant. Behind Prince Dara Shukoh is Nazar Beg, their goaler. Dara is shown throwing his wrapper to a beggar who had cried out, “Dara! When you were master, you always gave me alms, today I know well thou hast naught to give.” Describing the scene Bernier writes, “The crowd assembled was immense; and everywhere I observed the people weeping and lamenting the fate of Dara in the most touching language … men, women and children were wailing as if some mighty calamity had happened to themselves.”

The outburst of popular sympathy for Crown Prince Dara Shukoh and the contemptuous response which Aurangzeb had received from the people for his outrageous treatment of his brother made him procure in all haste a decree from the Clerics in his own pay, and had his elder brother beheaded on the charge of apostasy.

This was a sad end of a genuine seeker of truth, translator of the Upanishads, author of many works on Sufi philosophy, and one who could have revived and carried the enlightened policies of his great ancestor Akbar to fulfillment.

4. Aurangzeb orders the execution of Sarmad.

Aurangzeb orders the execution of Sarmad, a Jewish Philosopher who accepted Islam but stood for freedom of conscience:

Sarmad was a well known saint who came to Delhi towards the end of Shah Jahan’s reign. Prince Dara Shukoh, the eldest son of Shah Jahan and translator of the Upanishads in Persian, sought his company and gave him much respect due to a saint and philosopher.

Sarmad was disliked by the Mullas for his unorthodox views and free-thinking. He used to say that whosoever had realized the God, annihilates the distance between him and the Supreme Reality, i.e. remains constantly in communion with the Divine. When he said that “while the Mullas say that the Prophet ascended to the heaven but Sarmad declares that the heaven came down to the Prophet,” he meant that the highest state of bliss is attainable in this very life. He generally remained in the nude state and had acquired knowledge of the highest non-dualism. When summoned to the court and asked to repeat the Kalimah, he only went so far as to declare that there is no God, saying that his realization went no further: he saw the non-difference between the individual soul of every one and the Supreme Soul. The Mullas decreed that he must be put to death for apostasy. When the executioner came with his axe to cut off his head, Sarmad welcomed him with the words, “I know You, in whatever form You come,” and embraced death for the sake of his views and freedom of conscience.

The sketch above shows Sarmad in the Emperor’s court, the executioner waiting to perform the hateful task.

5. Dara Shukoh’s farcical trial and verdict

Dara Shukoh’s farcical trial and verdict:

Crown Prince Dara’s immense popularity and sympathy for him among the masses was evident when he along with his young son was taken out on the streets of Delhi on the 29th August 1659 in a degrading manner (Exhibit No.3). The outburst of popular sympathy for Dara Shukoh and the contemptuous and sullen response which Aurangzeb had received from the people for his outrageous behaviour with his elder brother filled his dark heart with misgivings if Dara remained alive even as prisoner in the Gwalior fort or elsewhere. It was felt among his inner circle of confidants that Dara must be put to death without delay on the ground of apostasy.

Following a farcical trial in absentia, the Ulama in pay of Aurangzeb decreed death for Dara for his infidelity and deviation from Islamic orthodoxy, and because “the pillars of the Canonical Law and Faith apprehended many kinds of disturbances from his life.” This was in reality a fraud on truth.

Prince Dara Shukoh was murdered and his severed head was sent to Aurangzeb to satisfy him that his rival was really dead. By his orders, the headless corpse of his brother was placed on an elephant and paraded through the streets of Delhi a second time and then buried without the customary washing and dressing of the body. The sketch above portrays the trial of Dara in absentia and his severed head being brought before his brother, Emperor Aurangzeb.

6. Shah Jahan’s burial Procession.

The above painting is based on a contemporary letter sent by the Amber State official Parkaldas to the Diwan of Amber, Kalyandas, dated Phalgun Vadi 30, 1722 V.S. / 23rd February, 1666.

It is a night scene in the Red Fort of Agra where Emperor Shah Jahan had been kept in strict confinement by his son Aurangzeb for the past several years. The two wives of the Emperor, Akbarabadi Begum and Fatehpuri Begum, who were with him when his end came, are being stopped at the door by the guards, and are sadly seeing the bier of their husband, Shah Jahan, the Emperor of India, being taken out by four kahars or palquin bearers, as if he was some common prisoner. No son, grandson or nobles are there to give shoulder to the body of the Emperor. In the tabut or bier, the pale face of the Emperor is uncovered. Shah Jahan’s devoted daughter, Jahanara is looking at the sad spectacle from a window of the palace, her entreaties with Khoja Phul (the eunuch) not to take the body for burial in the night without waiting for the daybreak having failed. “I have orders from the Emperor (Aurangzeb) to carry the coffin this very night”, he had replied. The Khoja is walking some steps ahead of the tabut. The body was taken out by the Mori Gate and hurriedly consigned to the grave in the Taj Mahal mausoleum.

There might be very few examples indeed of such an unceremonious and hurried burial, marked by stealthiness and tainted by guilt, as that of Shah Jahan, who had been Emperor of India for about thirty years (1627-1658) and who was leaving behind a son, now the Emperor (Aurangzeb), and a number of grand children and relations and countless nobles.

7. Shivaji leaving Aurangzeb’s Court in anger.

Shivaji reached Agra on the 12th May 1666 by noon, and had to be rushed to the Court to attend the special darbar on Aurangzeb’s 50th lunar birthday. Shivaji was presented to the Emperor by Asad Khan in the Diwan-i-Khas and was then directed to stand in the line of 5 hazari mansabdars. “The Emperor neither talked nor addressed any word to him.” The work of the court proceeded and Shivaji seemed to have been forgotten.

Shivaji was not expecting this kind of reception. He was very much upset when Kumar Ram Singh (son of Mirza Raja Jai Singh of Amber), in response to his query, informed him that the noble standing in front of him was Maharaja Jaswant Singh of Jodhpur. He flared up “Jaswant, whose back my soldiers have seen! I to stand behind him? What it all means ?”

He was made to feel neglected in other ways also. At this he began to fret and “his eyes became wet with anger.” The Emperor noticed the commotion and told Ram Singh, “Ask Shivaji, what ails him.”

When Kumar came, Shivaji burst forth, “You have seen, your father has seen, and your Padishah has seen, what sort of man I am, and you have wilfully made me stand up so long. I cast off your mansab …”

After saying this he then and there turned his back to the throne and rudely walked away. Kumar Ram Singh caught hold of his hand, but Shivaji wrenched it away …

In the painting above, the above scene, based on a contemporary letter, has been depicted. Shivaji is shown coming out of the Court in great anger, his back towards Aurangzeb, his sword half drawn, and Kumar Ram Singh of Amber trying in vain to pacify him. Wrote Parkaldas of Amber to the State’s Diwan in his letter of 29th May 1666, “The people had been praising Shivaji’s high spirit and courage before. Now that after coming to the Emperor’s presence he has shown such audacity and returned harsh and strong replies, the public extols him for his bravery all the more …”


8. Even to look at a Temple is improper for a Musalman.

Umurat-i-Hazur Kishwar-Kashai, Julus (R.Yr.) 9, Rabi II 24 / 13 October 1666.

‘It was reported to the Emperor (Aurangzeb) that in the Temple of Keshava Rai at Mathura, there was a stone railing presented by ‘Bishukoh’ (one without dignity i.e. Prince Dara, Aurangzeb’s elder brother). On hearing it, the Emperor observed, “In the religion of the Musalmans, it is improper even to look at a Temple and this Bishukoh had installed this kathra (barrier railing). Such an act is totally unbecoming of a Musalman. This railing should be removed (forthwith).” His Majesty ordered Abdun Nabi Khan to go and remove the kathra, which was in the middle of the Temple. The Khan went and removed it. After doing it he had audience. He informed that the idol of Keshava Rai was in the inner chamber. The railing presented by Dara was in front of the chamber and that, formerly, it was of wood. Inside the kathra used to stand the sevakas of the shrine (pujaris etc.) and outside it stood the people (khalq)’.

Note:

Aurangzeb’s solemn observation recorded in his own Court’s bulletin that “In the religion of the Musalmans it is improper even to look at a Temple” and therefore, presentation of a stone railing to Keshava Rai Temple by Dara was “totally unbecoming of a Musalman” casts serious doubts about a few instances of religious toleration and Temple grants attributed to him. Only two years before his long awaited death, he had ordered (1st January 1705) to “demolish the Temple of Pandharpur and to take the butchers of the camp there and slaughter cows in the Temple … It was done.” Akhbarat, 49-7, cited in J.N. Sarkar, Aurangzeb, Vol.III, 189).

9. Hindus to be replaced by Musalmans.

Hindu Chowkinavis and Amins of the Haft-chowkis to be replaced by the Musalmans. Siyaha Akhbarat Darbar Mu'alla, Julus (R. Yr.) 10, Zilhijja 16/30 May 1667

“Orders were issued by the Sublime Court to dismiss the Hindu Chowkinavis and to appoint in their place Musalmans, and, likewise, a way should be found for replacing the Amins of the Haft-chowkis by the Musalmans.”

Note:

Such dismissal of Hindu officials (Chowkinavis and Amins of Haft-chowkis) on the ground of religion foreshadowed the other discriminatory measures which Aurangzeb was to take in the coming years, influenced by the Shari‘at and his own religious convictions, thereby alienating the Hindus towards the Mughal government for ever.

10. 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.”

Note:

The Hindus celebrate Diwali to commemorate the return of Lord Ram to Ayodhya, after fourteen years of exile and victory over Ravana, by lighting lamps and bursting crackers etc. Some time before imposing the ban on atishbazi (fireworks) Aurangzeb had written (22 November 1665) to the Subahdar of Gujarat that “In the city and parganas of Ahmedabad (or Gujarat) the Hindus, following their superstitious customs, light lamps in the night on Diwali… It is ordered that in bazars there should be no illumination on Diwali.” (Mirat, 276).

11. Large number of conversions by Faujdar, Bithur.
Grant of saropas and cash sanctioned by Aurangzeb.

Akhbarat-i-Darbar-i-Mu‘alla, Julus (R.Yr.) 10, Shawwal 26 / 11th April 1667.

"Shaikh Abdul Momin, the Faujdar of Bithur, wrote to Jumdatul Mulk that he had converted one hundred fifty Hindus making them Musalman, and had given them saropas and cash (naqd).

The Emperor said “continue giving liberally."

Note:

This is only one of the few recorded evidence of the State subserviently acting for the advancement of Islam during the Medieval period of India’s history (1200-1790 A.D.). The process in its most invidious form was operative throughout Aurangzeb’s reign as it had been for more than three hundred years from 1200-1526 A.D. under the Delhi Sultanate, specially during the time of Sultan Firuz Tughlaq (1350-88 A.D.).

12. Muslims exempted from paying Zakat.

Siyaha Akhbart-i-Darbar-i-Mu‘alla, Julus (R.Yr.) 10, Zilqada 2 / 16th April 1667.

“A darvesh brought to the notice of the Emperor that the Musalmans (of the country) felt dejected on account of (the burden of) Zakat and that they should be exempted from paying it. Jumdat-ul Mulk now sought the Emperor’s orders regarding the matter. The Emperor (Aurangzeb) ordered that the Musalmans were to be exempted from paying it, but it should be charged from the Hindus.”

Note:

Here the word Zakat has been used for custom duty charged on all commodities brought for sale. J.N. Sarkar (Aurangzeb, Vol.III, p.181) is right in saying that it must not be confounded with the Zakat or tithes which all Muslims had to pay as per the Quranic injunction and was meant to be spent on the Musalmans alone. When the Muslims were found to be misusing the concession, they were made to pay at half the rate of what was charged from the Hindu traders.

13. Aurangzeb restoring the office of qanungoship to Hindu officials who were forced to become Musalman.

Qanungoship on becoming Musalman:

There are a large number of Akhbarat (Aurangzeb’s Court Bulletins) whichmention that either Qanungoi was restored on becoming Musalman, or that a person or persons were appointed Qanungos on accepting Islam, or that they agreed to become Musalman, obviously under pressure or as inducement.

A typical entry in the Akhbarat, such as of R.Yr. 10, Zilqada / April 22, 1667, reads “Makrand etc., in all four persons, became Musalman. The Qanungoi of Parganah Khohri was restored to them. Four Khil‘ats were conferred upon them.” Sir Jadunath Sarkar is right in saying that “Qanungoship on becoming a Muslim”, had become a proverb.

As Qanungo had intimate knowledge of the customs and tenures of the land, he could serve as the best agent for protecting the interests of the Musalmans and in extending influence of Islam in the rural areas. The sketch above shows four Qanungos being restored their Qanungoi on becoming Musalman.



14. Qanungoship on becoming Musalman.

Of the three Akhbarat of April 21st, April 22nd and May 4th 1667, the first mentions that Thakkar etc, four Qanungos of parganah Bhure, became Musalman and were awarded dresses of honour; the second says that the office of Qanungo was restored to four persons (Makrand etc.) on becoming Musalmans; the third records that Parmanand, Qanungo of Meerut, became a Musalman ‘as promised by him’.

15. Musalmans to replace Hindu officials.

Musalmans to replace Hindu officials as cure for ineffectiveness of prayers. Siyaha Waqai Darbar, Julus (R.Yr.) 10, Muharram 18 / 1st July 1667.

"The Emperor said to Shaikh Nizam that his prayers were not having any effect. What could be the reason for this ? The Shaikh said, 'The reason is that a large number of Hindus are serving as ahlikhidmat (officials and officers) and as musahibs (courtiers) and they are ever (seen) in the Royal presence, and, as a result, the prayers do not have any effect'. The Emperor ordered that it is necessary that the Musalmans be appointed to serve in place of the Hindus."

Note:

The object of the Emperor's prayers or the nature of the desired result is not mentioned, but it appears that it was the elevation and dominance of Islam, progress of its mission through means, such as jihad, which are very differently regarded by people of other faiths, and the welfare of the Musalmans in particular. The instant impact of the Shaikh’s analysis of the problem and implied advice to Aurangzeb is also indicative of the high degree of influence wielded by this religious class during the reign of Emperor Aurangzeb.

16. Demolition of Kalka Temple I.

Siyah Waqa’i-Darbar, Regnal Year 10, Rabi I, 23 / 3 September 1667.

“The asylum of Shariat (Shariat Panah) Qazi Abul Mukaram has sent this arzi to the sublime Court: a man known to him told him that the Hindus gather in large numbers at Kalka Temple near Barahapule (near Delhi); a large crowd of the Hindus is seen here. Likewise, large crowds are seen at (the mazars) of Khwaja Muinuddin, Shah Madar and Salar Masud Ghazi. This amounts to bid‘at (heresy) and this matter deserves consideration. Whatever orders are required should be issued.

Saiyid Faulad Khan was thereupon ordered (by the Emperor) to send one hundred beldars to demolish the Kalka Temple and other structures in its neighbourhood which were in the Faujdari of the Khan himself; these men were to reach there post haste, and finish the work without a halt.”

Note:

Kalkaji’s Temple which stands today was rebuilt soon after Aurangzeb’s death (1707 A.D.) on the remains of the old Temple dedicated to Goddess Kali. The two Akhbarat dated R.Yr. 10, Rabi I, 23 and Rabi II, 3 (Sept.3 and Sept. 12, 1667) provide details regarding the demolition of the Temple on Aurangzeb’s orders. Since 1764, the Temple has been renovated and altered several times but the main18th century structure more or less remains the same. The site is very old dating back to Emperor Asoka’s time (3rd century B.C.). There is mention of Kalkaji in the Maratha records of 1738. People flock to the Temple in large numbers, especially during Navratras.

17. Demolition Of Kalka Temple, II.

Siyah Akhbarat-i-Darbar-i-Mu‘alla, Julus 10, Rabi II, 3 / 12 September 1667.

“Saiyad Faulad Khan has reported that in compliance with the orders, beldars were sent to demolish the Kalka Temple which task they have done. During the course of the demolition, a Brahmin drew out a sword, killed a bystander and then turned back and attacked the Saiyad also, inflicting three wounds. The Saiyid managed to catch hold of the Brahmin.”

Note:

There are only a few recorded instances of armed opposition by outraged Hindus, such as at Goner (near Jaipur), Ujjain, Udaipur and Khandela, but there must have been many more such instances of angry outbursts and resistance against Muslim vandalism which do not find mention in the official papers of Emperor Aurangzeb.

Most of the Hindus took the destruction of these Temples philosophically considering these as acts of ignorance and folly for a vain purpose. They regarded that it was beyond the understanding or intelligence of the Musalmans to comprehend the principle behind the idol worship or the fundamental oneness of saguna and nirguna worship. The Hindus believed that the Gods and Goddesses leave for their abode before the hatchet or the hammer of the vile “mlecchas” or “asuras” so much as even touched the idols. The idea has been well described in Kanhadade Prabandha (wr. 1456 A.D.) when giving an account of the destruction of the Somnath Temple by Sultan Alauddin’s troops in 1299.

18. Restriction on the gathering of Hindus.

Restriction on the gathering of Hindus at the shrines of Shitla Mata and Pir Pabuji. Muslims too not to gather at these places. Siyaha Waqai Darbar, Julus (R.Yr.) 10, Rabi II, 17 / 26th September 1667.

“For different reasons, and also out of apprehension, people visit in large numbers (the mazars or shrines) of Shah Madar, Khwaja Muin-ud-din, Salar, Sarur Sultan and Pir Ganun (Pir Pabu?) etc. They go for ziyarat (visit to sacred tombs) and perform tawaf (circumbulation) which are bid‘at. Orders were issued to stop these practices.

Also, the Hindus, and quite often the Musalmans also, flock at (the shrines of) Devi for worship and that of Pir Pabu. The Emperor ordered that this should be stopped. It was also ordered that the Hindus must not crowd at these places, and worship of Shitla wherever it is performed, should be held at a distance (from the habitation).”

Note:

In orthodox view of Islam, pilgrimages are permitted to three places only – Macca, Madina and Jerusalam, and the practice of visiting tombs of saints and holy men is sternly condemned, such as by the Wahabis, who saw in it violation of the doctrine of the ‘unity’. Earlier, Sultan Firuz Tughluq (1350-88) had put a ban on the visit of women for ziyarat.

19. General Order for the destruction of Temples.

9th April 1669

“The Lord Cherisher of the Faith learnt that in the provinces of Thatta, Multan and especially at Benaras, the Brahmin misbelievers used to teach their false books in their established schools, and their admirers and students, both Hindu and Muslim, used to come from great distances to these misguided men in order to acquire their vile learning. His Majesty, eager to establish Islam, issued orders to the governors of all the provinces to demolish the schools and Temples of the infidels, and, with the utmost urgency, put down the teaching and the public practice of the religion of these unbelievers.” (Maasir-i-‘Alamgiri, p. 81, Tr. J.N. Sarkar)

Note:

This is not the only instance when Aurangzeb prevented the Muslims from acquiring knowledge and wisdom of the Hindu philosophical works and other Sanskrit and Bhasha classics, or sharing spiritual and intellectual experience, and thus stifled the process of fusion, or at least bridging of the gulf between the two creeds with very different approaches, principles, values, levels of intellectual attainments and period of evolution of ideas. A general order of this type to put down the teaching and public practice of religion by the Hindus was used as a ground to demolish some of the most venerable shrines of India during the next few years, but despite the severe and comprehensive nature of the order, it failed to wrest from Banaras its unique prestige and position as the chief centre of learning of the Vedas, Dharmashastras, the Six Systems of Philosophy, Sanksrit language and literature, and Astronomy.

20. General Order for the demolition of Hindu Temples.

On the 9th April 1669, Aurangzeb “eager to establish Islam, issued orders to the governors of all the provinces to demolish the schools and Temples of the infidels, and, with the utmost urgency, put down the teaching and the public practice of the religion of these unbelievers (Hindus)” (Maasiri-‘Alamgiri, p.81).

In the sketch above, the artist has shown the destruction of the Temples of Somanath, Jagannath (Puri), Kashi Vishwanath (Banaras)and Keshava Rai (Mathura), which were all highly venerated shrines, as symbolic of Aurangzeb’s ideal of thorough destruction of Hindu Temples. In the centre is a portion of the infamous order of the 9th April issued by him.


21. Demolition of Somnath Temple.

About the time the general order for destruction of Hindu Temples was issued (9th April 1669), the highly venerated Temple of Somanath built on the sea-shore in Kathaiwad was also destroyed. The famous Temple was dedicated to Lord Shiva. In the 11th century, the Temple was looted and destroyed by Mahmud Ghaznavi. It was rebuilt by King Bhim Deva Solanki of Gujarat and again renovated by Kumarapal in 1143-44 A.D. The Temple was again destroyed by Alauddin Khalji’s troops in 1299. In a rare description of the scene of a Temple destruction, like of which continued to occur time and again during the long and disastrous rule of the Musalman rulers in India, we have the following account. “The Mlechchha (asura) stone breakers”, writes Padmanabha in his classic work “climbed up the shikhar of the Temple and began to rain blows on the stone idols on all three sides by their hammers, the stone pieces falling all around. They loosened every joint of the Temple building, and then began to break the different layers (thara) and the sculptured elephants and horses carved on them by incessant blows of their hammers. Then, amidst loud and vulgar clamour, they began to apply force from both the sides to uproot the massive idol by means of wooden beams and iron crowbars” (Kanhadade Prabandha, Canto I, vss. 94-96).

After the destruction of Somnath Temple during Alauddin’s time, it was rebuilt again. When Aurangzeb gave orders for its destruction, the scene must have been little different from the one described by Padmanabha. The artist in the painting above has tried to recreate the scene.

22. Demolition of the Temple of Vishwanath.

Demolition of the Temple of Vishwanath (Banaras). August 1669 A.D.

It was reported that, “according to the Emperor’s command, his officers had demolished the Temple of Vishwanath at Kashi.” (Maasir-i-'Alamgiri, p. 88)

Note:

Kashi is one of the most sacred towns in India and reference to the worship of Shiva as Vishveshvara goes back to very early times. Kashi itself enjoys highest sanctity since times immemorial. According to the Puranas, every foot-step taken in Kashi Kshetra has the sanctity of making a pilgrimage to a tirtha. Lord Vishvanatha is regarded as the protector of Kashi and the belief is that one earns great religious merit by having darshana (view) of the deity after having bathed in the Ganges. After destruction of the Temple on Aurangzeb’s orders, a mosque was built which still stands there as a testimony of the great tolerance and spirit of forgiveness of the Hindus even towards those who had for centuries desecrated and destroyed their Temples and other places of worship and learning, and also as a lesson that “mutually uncongenial cultures”, when forced by circumstances to intermingle in the same Geographical area, result in such calamities. A portion of the sculpture of the demolished Temple, probably built in the late 16th century, still survives to tell the tale of Aurangzeb’s vandalism and barbarity. The present Temple of Vishveshvara was built by Ahilya Bai Holkar of Indore.



23. Demolition of the Dehura of Keshava Rai in Mathura

“During this month of Ramzan (1080 A.H./January-February 1670) … the Emperor ... The reviver of  the Faith of the Prophet issued orders for the demolition of the Dehura of Keshava Rai in Mathura. In a short time the destruction of this strong foundation of infidelity was accomplished and on its site a lofty mosque was built... the idols large and small of the Temple were brought to Agra and buried under the steps of the mosque of Begum Sahib, in order to be continually trodden upon. The name of Mathura was changed to Islamabad.” (Maasir-i-‘Alamgiri, p. 95-96, Tr. J.N. Sarkar)

24. Demolition of Keshava Rai Temple at Mathura.

13th January - 11th February 1670

The great Temple of Keshava Rai at Mathura was built by Bir Singh Deo Bundela during Jahangir’s time at a cost of thirty-three lakhs of rupees. The Dehra of Keshava Rai was one of the most magnificent Temples ever built in India and enjoyed veneration of the Hindus throughout the land. Prince Dara Shukoh, who was looked upon by the masses as the future Emperor, had presented a carved stone railing to the Temple which was installed in front of the deity at some distance; the devotees stood outside this railing to have ‘darshan’ of Keshava Rai. The railing was removed on Auranzeb’s orders in October 1666.

The Dehra of Keshava Rai was demolished in the month of Ramzan, 1080 A.H. (13th January – 11th February 1670) by Aurangzeb’s order. “In a short time, by the great exertion of the officers, the destruction of this strong foundation of infidelity was accomplished and on its site a lofty mosque was built at the expenditure of a large sum.” To the author of Maasir-i-‘Alamigiri, the accomplishment of this “seemingly impossible work was an “instance of the strength of the Emperor’s faith.” Even more disgraceful was transporting the idols to Agra and burying them under the steps of the mosque of the Begum Sahib “in order to be continually trodden upon.” He even changed the name of the sacred city of Mathura, held in highest respect by the Hindus since time immemorial, to Islamabad, revealing his utter insensitivity towards their feelings. 

The paintings (above) show the demolition of the great Temple on Aurangzeb’s orders in progress and subsequent uncivilized conduct towards the idols.

25. Maharana Raj Singh formally receiving the Idol of Shrinathji.

Aurangzeb’s Temple breaking spree was in full swing after his general order of 9th April 1669. The idols were being broken and Temples desecrated in a show of mad religious frenzy and in remorseless pursuit to fulfil the demands of the Shari‘at. These were the circumstances which formed the backdrop of Shrinathji’s journey from Govardhan near Mathura to a small village in Mewar (Rajasthan), which in course of time became one of the most important centres of the Vallabha Sampradaya.

The idol which adorned the Temple at Govardhan near Mathura, before it could be touched by Aurangzeb’s hatchet-men, was taken by Damodar Gosain to Bundi, Kotah, Kishangarh and even Jodhpur, but none of the Rajput States felt strong enough to face the wrath of Aurangzeb. At last when Maharana Raj Singh of Mewar was approached, he assured the worried Gosain (the priest) that Aurangzeb would not be able to even touch the idol of Shri Nathji without first treading over the bodies of one lakh of his brave troops.

Shrinathji’s idol was then brought to Mewar, the Maharana himself receiving the Lord on the border of his state on 5th December 1671 at Sihad village, which after the deity, came to be called Nathdwara. The idol of Shrinathji was consecrated in a temple here on 20th February, 1672 amidst great rejoicings.

The tradition goes that when Gosain and his party reached Sihada village in Mewar, the wheels of Shrinathji’s chariot got stuck up in the sand, and despite all efforts, the chariot would not move a finger’s length. Happily, this was taken as a sign that the Lord did not wish to proceed any further and had chosen the place as His abode.

In the painting above, the wheels of Shrinathji’s chariot are shown stuck up in sand; the Maharana Raj Singh is receiving the idol of Shrinathji with utmost reverence; the Gosain is standing nearby; Shrinathji is in the curtained chariot, only His face being visible.

26. Martyrdom of Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur

Martyrdom of the 9th Sikh Guru Tegh Bahadur & his three followers at Chandni Chowk, Delhi. (11th November 1675)

The martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur, the ninth Guru, in 1675 is a major event in the Sikh history. It led to the creation of Khalsa in 1699 by his son Guru Gobind Singh; the creation of Khalsa is considered as a watershed in the history of the Sikhs.

Guru Tegh Bahadur was born in 1621 to the sixth Guru Hargovind (1605-45), who was the first to arm the Panth to defend it from the oppressive Mughal rule and to help the weak and the needy. He was followed by Guru Har Rai (1645-61) who incurred displeasure of Aurangzeb for having blessed Dara Shukoh, then passing through Punjab after losing the War of Succession.

Guru Tegh Bahadur accepted the mantle of Guruship in 1664 after the death of the eighth Guru Har Kishan at Delhi. Sooner or later he was bound to invite hostility of Aurangzeb who had summoned the two previous Gurus as if he had the right to arbitrate in the succession for the Guruship. He travelled extensively, spreading his message of hope and courage to the scattered sangats and encouraging all to bear their tribulations. The surviving hukam-namas show the high regard in which he was held by his followers. In 1669 or so, he accompanied Maharaja Ram Singh of Amber (Mirza Raja Jai Singh’s son) to Assam where he participated in the Mughal campaign. After returning from there he took his residence at Makhowal where in about 1675, he received a deputation of the Brahmins of Kashmir who narrated to him harrowing tales of their oppression and forcible conversion in Kashmir. Gradually Guru Tegh Bahadur was drawn into the whirlwind which Aurangzeb had raised by his policy of Temple destruction, conversions and discrimination against the non-Muslims. Along with the Temples, Gurudwaras were also razed. Guru Tegh Bahadur, who had all along called upon others to fight against oppression and injustice, and for freedom of conscience, now came out openly against Aurangzeb’s policies and encouraged the resistance of the Hindus of Kashmir against forcible conversion to Islam thereby carrying out Guru Nanak’s injunction that “righteous people must defy and resist tyranny.”

Guru Tegh Bahadur was taken to Delhi and cast into prison. After he and his three companions refused to embrace Islam, they were brought to the Chandni Chowk near the Red Fort where his companions were tortured to death in his presence to intimidate him, but on his firm refusal to abjure his faith at any cost, he was beheaded “in a large public spectacle” on 11 November 1675 (the painting above depicts the same). Guru Tegh Bahadur preferred to give his head but not his honour. The Guru’s martyrdom deeply influenced his son Gobind Singh’s mind and it is believed to be one of the main reasons for his founding the Khalsa in 1699 which made every Sikh a potential warrior against oppression and religious persecution and led to a most dramatic change in the Sikh Panth.

27. Reimposition of Jizyah by Aurangzeb.

2nd April 1679

‘As all the aims of the religious Emperor were directed to the spreading of the law of Islam and the overthrow of the practices of the infidels, he issued orders to the high diwani officers that from Wednesday, the 2nd April 1679 / 1st Rabi I, in obedience to the Quranic injunction, “till they pay commutation money (Jizyah) out of their hand and they be humbled”, and in agreement with the canonical tradition, Jizyah should be collected from the infidels (zimmis) of the capital and the provinces. Many of the honest scholars of the time were appointed to discharge the work (of collecting Jizyah). May God actuate him (Emperor Aurangzeb) to do that which He loves and is pleased with, and make his future life better than the present’. (Maasir-i-‘Alamgiri, p. 175, Tr. J.N. Sarkar)

Note:

Ignoring the Qur’anic injunction that war was to be made on all those who do not profess Islam “till they pay Jizyah out of their hand and they be humbled,” Emperor Akbar had abolished this invidious tax on the Hindus in 1564. Its re-imposition by Aurangzeb in 1679 was an extremely retrogressive step and was greeted by spontaneous protests of the people in general and made Shivaji Maharaj write his famous letter chiding the intolerant and imprudent Emperor for making distinction among his subjects on the basis of religion. The step was likely to bring a spurt in conversions to Islam, especially from the poorer classes, and pacification of the Muslims in general, but Ulama in particular.

28. Hindus forced to suffer humiliation in paying the Jizyah tax.

On 2nd April 1679, Aurangzeb re-imposed Jizayah upon the Hindus which had been abolished by Emperor Akbar in 1564. The author of Maasir-i-Alamgiri writes: ‘As all the aims of the religious Emperor (Aurangzeb) were directed to the spreading of the law of Islam and the overthrow of the practices of the infidelity, he issued orders … that from Wednesday, the 2nd April 1679/1st Rabi I, in obedience to the Qur’anic injunction, “till they pay Jizyah out of their hand and they be humbled”, and in agreement with the canonical traditions, Jizyah should be collected from the infidels (zimmis) of the capital and the provinces’.

The economic burden of Jizyah was felt most by the poor who formed the vast majority of the Hindus; for the middle classes and the rich, it was not so much the economic burden which mattered but the humiliation involved in the prescribed mode of payment, which the Jizyah collector could always insist upon, as of right i.e. by insisting that he would accept it only when paid personally. The Qur’anic injunction that war must be made upon all those who do not profess Islam “till they pay Jizyah out of their hand and they be humbled”, was interpreted to mean that the Hindus must be made conscious of their inferior position when paying this tax.

In the painting above, a number of Hindus, both rich and poor are lining up to pay Jizyah while the arrogant Jizyah collector is picking up the coins from the palm of a Hindu Jizyah payer. Some people have come from the neighbouring areas in their bullock-carts; their bullocks are resting under the shade of the trees.

29. Burial of Music.

In 1665 and in subsequent years also Aurangzeb issued a number of orders to enforce the rules in confirmity with the Shariat, such as dismissal of court astronomers and poets, prohibition of Tazias, restriction on assembling of pilgrims, prohibition of music at the court, discontinuation of the Jharokha darshan etc. Khafi Khan writes that “distinguished and well-known musicians in the service of the court were forbidden to perform (in the court)” and general orders were issued for the prohibition of music and dancing. As a mark of protest the musicians, accompanied by a large crowd, “prepared a bier with great dignity and carried it to the foot of the Jharokha window, wailing infront and behind the bier.” When the Emperor enquired about the funeral, the musicians said, “Rag (Music) is dead, we are going to bury it.” Unfazed by the polished satire, he replied, “Bury it so deep that no sound or echo of it may rise again.”

Aurangzeb’s puritanism and orthodoxy accompanied him to his grave but the Rag lived on triumphantly.

In the painting above, the artist has shown the musicians, wailing and lamenting, carrying the “bier of music” in Aurangzeb’s presence.

30. Idols to be cast under the steps of Jam'a Masjid.

Aurangzeb orders cart-loads of idols brought from Jodhpur to be cast under the steps of Jam'a Masjid. (May 1679)

“On Sunday, the 24 Rabi II / 25th May 1679, Khan Jahan Bahadur came from Jodhpur, after demolishing the Temples and bringing with himself some cart-loads of idols, and had audience of the Emperor, who highly praised him and ordered that the idols, which were mostly jewelled, golden, silvery, bronze, copper or stone, should be cast in the yard (jilaukhanah) of the Court and under the steps of Jam'a Masjid, to be trodden on. They remained so for some time and at last their very names were lost.” (Maasir-i-‘Alamgiri, p. 175, Tr. J.N. Sarkar)

Note:

There was no limit to the destructive conduct of the Muslim troops in Marwar during the war which started in 1679 following the resumption of Marwar. Aurangzeb’s handling of the situation after the death of Maharaja Jaswant Singh in the Kabul Subah in 1679, rekindled in his heart the dormant fire of vengeance towards the Maharaja, and his whole plan was to eliminate the Rathors as a major power in Rajputana. The treatment of the idols brought from the Temples of Marwar showed the level of degradation to which people can descend under the influence of religious orthodoxy, but for an Emperor whose majority of the subjects respected and worshipped these idols, it was an unpardonable act and reflected poorly on his religious beliefs.