Mughal ruler Aurangzeb
A portrait of Mughal ruler Aurangzeb | Photo: collections.vam.ac.uk/
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That Aurangzeb’s orthodoxy and his dedication to his beliefs was personal rather than a matter for political interference is evident in his reactions and responses during the war of succession of 1658, a quadrangular conflict between Dara, Shuja, Aurangzeb, and Murad. Throughout the struggle, Aurangzeb was concerned about Dara’s political manoeuvres. Their individual feelings and religious outlook—which stood in sharp contrast—remained confined to the personal level. Aurangzeb referred to Dara as mushrik (heretic) while Dara called Aurangzeb kotah pyjama (narrow pants), a symbolic attribute of orthodoxy. Both attempted to rally public opinion, but never on religious grounds. In fact, the support that largely came for Aurangzeb was from the Rajputs, notably Rana Raj Singh of Mewar, Raja Jai Singh Kachwaha of Amber, and later, Maharaja Jaswant Singh of Marwar. In this context may be related an interesting nishan that Aurangzeb sent to Rana Raj Singh of Mewar, condemning such kings who practised intolerance that could become the cause of dispute, conflict, and harm to the people, and could ‘devastate the prosperous creations of God and destroy the foundations of the God-created fabric’. Such attitudes of kings, Aurangzeb ordained, deserve ‘to be rejected and cast off’. This document from the Udaipur records is a clear revelation of what Aurangzeb intended as his public policy. It further confirmed that Aurangzeb, in the struggle for succession, did not raise the cry of jihad or Islam in danger, nor did he promulgate a new religious policy contrary to that of his predecessors; neither did Dara claim to be the champion of liberal forces. The issue was not religious or ideological, or whether orthodoxy would triumph or liberalism. It was a question of personal vested interest, political in nature but free from religious connotations, that is: Who would be the emperor of India, Dara or Aurangzeb? It is in such a context that Aurangzeb deserves to be assessed.

Debating Aurangzeb’s leanings—religious orthodoxy or political pragmatism—one needs to ask: Did Aurangzeb really intend, as Jadunath Sarkar suggested, the establishment of dar-ul-Islam or a truly Islamic State in India, the conversion of the entire population to Islam, and the annihilation of dissenters? Or, as Ishtiyaq Husain Qureshi argued, was it rigid adherence to the shari’a and undoing the damage caused by Akbar; or the triumph of Muslim theology, as Shri Ram Sharma asserted? If this was really the case, then the emperor’s personal valour, military skills, and single-minded commitment to achieving territorial expansion and consolidation would stand negated. The biased ideological portrayal of the emperor, regardless of historical accuracy, makes it difficult to explain the increase in the number of Rajput mansabdars in Aurangzeb’s administration as compared to Akbar’s period, and their rise from 24 per cent under Shahjahan to 33 per cent in 1689. Nor can Raghunath Ray Kayastha’s dominance as diwan-i kul be understood rationally. Raghunath Ray not only supported Aurangzeb but also participated in several expeditions of the period. Aurangzeb honoured him with the title of Raja and when Raghunath Ray died in 1664, the emperor, in his obituary written in Ruqa’at-i Alamgiri, remembered him as the greatest administrator he had ever known.


Also read: The Indian political leaders of today who come closest to Akbar, Ghiyasuddin, Aurangzeb


There are well-documented evidences of Aurangzeb’s patronage of various Hindu religious institutions, namely temples, maths, grants to Brahmins and pujaris:

  • Land grants were renewed to the temples at Mathura, Banaras, Gaya, Gauhati, and others, while the emperor is known to have donated ghee for the navadeep in a few temples, including the Mahabateshwar temple at Agra;
  • Gifts were offered to the Sikh gurudwara at Dehradun;
  • Madad-i ma’ash grants, as listed in the Rajasthan documents, were continued to a math of Nathpanthi yogis in pargana Didwana, sarkar Nagor;
  • Grants were also made to Ganesh Bharti faqir and his successors in pargana Siwana with the instructions that the faqir should not be disturbed so he could ‘pray for this sultanat’.
  • The Vrindavan document of 1704 referred to a parwana which sanctioned the rights of Chaitanya gosains who had founded Vrindavan and established pilgrimages in Braj Bhumi, and recognised the right of Brajanand Gosain to receive a fee from the followers of the sect on account of kharj sadir o warid, that is, expenses on guests and travellers from each village. In effect, it was a government levy for the benefit of Brajanand Gosain and his Vaishnavite followers.

From the above description, Aurangzeb’s patronage to temples appears without doubt. And yet some temples were attacked, while others were spared. This aberration in the emperor’s attitude can be explained by only one rationale: it was not iconoclasm, but reprisal for rebellion or political misconduct or disloyalty to the emperor. This exposition can be applied to understand the attack on the Vishwanath temple at Kashi, the Keshav Dev temple at Mathura, and several prominent temples in Rajasthan. In 1669, during a zamindar revolt in Banaras, it was suspected that some of them had assisted Shivaji in his escape from imperial detention. It was also believed that Shivaji’s escape was initially facilitated by Jai Singh, the great-grandson of Raja Man Singh, who had built the Vishwanath temple. It was against this background that Aurangzeb ordered the destruction of that temple in September 1669.


Also read: How the imperial wives & daughters of Shah Jahan & Aurangzeb built Old Delhi


Around the same time, in a Jat rebellion that had erupted in the neighbouring regions of Mathura, a patron of the local congregational mosque was killed, leading to Aurangzeb’s order in 1670 to attack the Keshav Dev temple at Mathura. Temples in Marwar and Mewar were also attacked following the death of Maharaja Jaswant Singh to reprimand and crush the Rathor rebellion and the development of a Sisodia– Rathor alliance. These included temples in Khandela patronised by rebel chieftains; temples in Jodhpur maintained by a former supporter of Dara Shukoh; and the royal temples in Udaipur and Chittor patronised by Rana Raj Singh after the Rana entered into an alliance with the Rathors that signalled the withdrawal of loyalty to the Mughal State. It may be observed that the Rathor rebellion was not a reaction or a protest against the re-imposition of jizya. Instead, this re-imposition, as Abu’l Fazl Ma’muri observed in the context of the suppression of the Satnami revolt and prior to the emperor’s expedition to Ajmer, was meant for ‘the affliction of the rebellious unbelievers’.

This excerpt from Understanding Mughal India: Sixteenth to Eighteenth Centuries by Meena Bhargava has been published with permission from Orient BlackSwan.

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46 Comments Share Your Views

46 COMMENTS

  1. The dera in Dehradun was not Sikh. It was a son of one of the Gurus attempting to claim power who established it. The son was jealous as his younger brother was given the Guruhood, instead of him. The son, named Ram Rai, was favored by Auranzeb and he was willing to change Sikh scripture as Aurangzeb pleased and if given the Guruship, was willing to adjust Sikh thought and practice. This has gotten Ram Rai excommunicated and banished from the Sikh community. Aurangzeb gave land and support to Ram Rai in what is now known as Dehradun, so that he can start a parallel Guruship to try and reduce the influence of the rebellious Sikhs living in Punjab. This ultimately failed, and his dera essentially became a Mandir. The caretakers of the dera do not consider themselves to be sikh, nor do they reference the dera as a gurdwara. I know you did not write this, however it is important to point out as it is essentially a rewriting of Sikh History, which can okay our badly in a community who’s history is already marginalized.

  2. Aurangzeb became a bigot and mad after1969 he ordered to desyroy thousands of temples , gurudwaras etc. He even removed the islamic writings from the coins so that kafirs do not touch them, he said it is kufr even to look at temples. In his earlier life he was alright and used Rajputs just like his predecessors. The author has mentioned instances when he was young but became mad but after 1969 . He is the one who destroyed the mughal legacy and jailed all his sons except one. He was a super cunning and change his colour regularly, he planned to take rajput mansabdars to Iran and convert them but they became suspecious and burnt the boats at attock river, Auranzeb fell on the feet of Rajputs and apologized. He never produced a capable ruler who would rule India after him, his son Akbar was close to remove him as the king with help of Durga dass but supersmart Aurangzeb played his game and foiled it. Okay the sikh religion came into existance during his rule becaue of the atorcities also Maratha swabhiman also begun during his rule by Shivaji. If he was peaceful then why so revolt? Satnamis and Jats were also against him. King Chatrasaal also.

  3. History is something which is in past , for it is important to read and forget … But today’s politicians had changed the history for there political career, so rather fighting for history let us fight for present and future. Our politicians are uneducated not even a single degree but gives us the knowledge of history.. for becoming an IS officer one should have good knowledge in everything and should crack civil service exam wic s so though .. then y there s no qualifications for politicians .

  4. Shameful. Disgusting article. Just because you have right to express doesn’t not mean you write shit. Just because Aurangya had Hindu ‘servants’ in his office doesn’t erase his sins. He had clear agenda of ‘making Hindus fight amongst themselves’. This is called divide and rule you immature fool. ‘Be my servant or convert to Islam’ was his hidden agenda. And ofcourse he ‘mis’used the talents of Hindus (e.g. war skills of Jai singh) in invading Hindus etc etc. And, what do you want to prove those who faught against Aurangya were fools or what?? You think those great warriors have wasted there life in fighting against so called good human??? Remember you are disrespecting Maharana Pratap, Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, Chatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj and many great personalities who lost their lives because of your so called hero. Anger. You can write good things if you want to become famous, why should one choose negative ways to become famous.

    • Correctly said. Auranjeb Knew if he would express his dislikes to Hindu religion and he would express his willingness to convert entire India to Muslim state. All small kings would have started War against him… So to create that image he kept some cases like this. This is very well known fact and these stupid won’t accept it.

  5. All humanity (homo sapiens) is one. Good and evil – both owe their existence to the human brain. An evil brain can be born anywhere.
    Who is “we” and who is “outsider”? Were Aryans insiders or outsiders? Their Sanskrit language? The Gandhara kingdom 3000 years ago, was this South Asian or Central Asian? And what was it when it became part of Persia that extended from Gandhara to the Mediterranean? Then the Greeks. And the Kushan kingdom that extended from Central Asia to South Asia. The Huns? And much later the Mongols.
    Where did the 5000 years old (Mehrgarh is 7000 years old) Harapan civilization people come from? Were they Dravidians? Still being studied. Where did the Dravidians &/or Harapans come from? Wars are evil. The subcontinent was rarely united as one country and that too for short periods. Asoka the great Hindu Mauryan King converted to Buddhism after a bloody war with another sister-state. (Buddhism today is gone from Bharat but survives outside) . When Central Asians had converted to Islam they came to the subcontinent. The British traders came from the seas. After 200 years they left in 1947. Two independent states were born: Hindu majority states formed Bharat and Muslim majority states formed Pakistan. Majority of the population of Pakistani Muslims had forefathers who were Hindus. But like all countries, righteous Bharat & Pakistan preach peace and fight wars.

  6. The invasiom and rule by islamist forces changed the fabric of Indian society forever… Sanatana Dharma,the principle torchbearer of human civilization had to suffer at the hands of these bigots …shame on this commie who has penned this article

  7. Disgusting and highly disrespectful to the feelings of Hindus who suffered rape loot violence death and destruction at the hands of this Islamic bigot …for some gains and to win over the chieftems he might have given concessions here and there ,but that does not take away the character of his rule ….utterly disgusting

  8. Interesting article by someone who has done research. Thats how history is to be read analysed and understood not on the basis of biased discussions of our immature preexisting notions. Since none of us lived in those times…my request to all those commenting here is to leave this subject to those who do research and never ever to see history from the prism of present.

  9. Why is the author trying to glorify this aurangzeb? Doing 10 things criminally wrong and 1 or 2 things good doesn’t make you saint. Aurangzeb is as good as a terrorist for Indian people be it any religion.

  10. Mind your tongue before calling a Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj with a single name, whitewash all you want, The people remember the history

  11. It is disgusting to find that spaces are provided for eulogizing a lowly bigot like this man who had no quality of a king!! India has accommodated many outsider kings who had qualities of a king which are : 1) They saw the grandeur of Indian culture and in stead of forcing their own, they decided to convert themselves, 2) They did not allow their forces to loot, murder and rape the civil societies 3) They did not indulge in armtwistin tactics like Zizya!!

    What a subverted motive to write an article like this!! Sad, Aurangzeb was not an honourable human being!!

  12. The British had also so many Indian administrators.What do you conclude ?

    Worst analysis by a leftist writer .It is distortion of history.

    So many royal records and farmanas still exist today.

  13. Got it …. So lets be like great Aurangzeb. Destroy a religious structure because someone remotely related to it was involved in rebellion.

    Lets start with Shaheen bagh . Which structure should be demolished as a political price? Hmm let the author decide.

  14. People seems to have little understanding about Nehruji. I was also on the same page in growing up years. One should read his Discovery of India where he writes about India’s rich history for many years. So where is the question of Nehruvian history. We need to read history with open mind and one sided bring spread by some leaders of ruling party as PM himself has read history from RSS school and this is what being spread now.

  15. Dont know what kind of sick reprobate writes these ridiculous justifications for psychopathic Mughals and what kind of reprobates allow such articles on their websites but it is evident now that whitewashing Islamic history and genocides is now a leftist cottage industry. Perhaps the Govt can apply GST for this “islamic gentrification” service.

  16. Another il”liberal” attempt to paint an equally illiberal, bigoted emperor as not anti-Hindu but just a shrewd political manipulator.
    If she can exonerate Aurangzeb for razing several temples just on political grounds, perhaps she should also argue in favour of those karsevaks who razed Babri Masjid. After all it is oft repeated by the liberal media that the right wing bodies did the act for political gains.

    There is innumerable evidence to Aurangzeb’s bigoted outlook. Read his letters, how he described Hindus in them.

    Secondly how does it matter whether he did for political gains or religious reasons. Either way it doesn’t show him in great light. I simply don’t understand the attempts of this Eaton ilk to undo a historical wrong committed on Hindu communities of India.

  17. a rajput named Jai Singh has helped him to accession to throne. He fought with fellow hindu Kings for him and he got poisoned on instructions of Aurangzeb and his killer was pardoned because he concerted to Islam. What a great sense of Justice in this case by Aurangzeb.
    Another supporter and brother in law of Aurangzeb was Jaswant singh of Marwadi. He fought for him from Kondhana to Kandahar. He had no male heir but at a time of his death his wife was pregnant. Aurangzeb wants to annex his kingdom, but he puts a condition that to save kingdom, his heir must accept Islam. Thanks to a valiant warrior Durga das Rathore, Jaswant Singh’s lineage was saved. Later mighty Marathas distracted Aurangzeb for 27 years hence his son was saved. Ironically same son has joined mughals as governor of Gujarat.

    • Correct… These bigoted souls never Mention Veer Durgadas Rathod .. I doubt they ever read Great Rajput and Maratha History… No matter what, I cannot like a person who tortured and killed Dharmaveer Sambhaji Raje , And It was Aurangzeb….

  18. Every kingdom had its own people to thrive and exist during those days so also Aurangzeb. The author has tried to tilt this fact with a single example in portraying Aurangzeb as Hindu well-wisher. There exist abundant historical pieces of evidence in the Bikaner museum about the atrocities committed by Aurangzeb on Hindus including mass killings of Hindus especially of Brahmins, conversion of Hindus into Islam and destruction of places of worship of Hindus including thousands of Jain temples. A failed attempt to glorify one of the cruelest Muslim rulers.

  19. Do we inherit the sins and liabilities of our ancestors? Yes, because we inherit their virtues and their assets. Like other conquerors, our medieval ancestors ruled their subjects against their will. Hindus never went out of the subcontinent to invade or rule others, while invasion and domination were genetic to Muslims. They preferred to dominate rather than befriend. Conquest and killing leaves lasting scars. Those who are disgraced and defeated pass their memories of pain to the posterity,that breeds new conflicts. Only an admission of misdeeds opens the path to redemption. The contemporary descendants of Vikings, Romans and Mongols do not take pride in the violent history of their ancestors. In contrast, the boastful pride of our past makes us crudely unique and alienates us from the world. An honest admission instead can work as the recipe for coexistence. Such civilized attitudes are not humiliating; they can win us respect among nations. But that is not possible without a strong dismissal of the terrorists who represent the darkest aspects of our psyche. DAWN

  20. Finding good even in destruction of temples ,
    Even when you find the majority is hindus,
    U guys need to be slaved again and again like it was done for thousand years,
    Cannot find good in our hindu culture and religion.
    Can you expect the same in muslim majority country..
    Need to think and act before publishing such rubbish article

  21. Do not agree at all. It was a policy hefollowed to kill all Hindu generals. When he had so many great Muslim generals he sent Hindu generals to fight Hindus n their destruction. It was his strategy n not generosity or tolerance. Jai Singh’s son was poisoned. Farmans were issued to fool public. Each farmans followed by another farmans. Band Bhadur’s son was killed n his heart forced fed into the mouth of Banda Bhadur. We cannot forget his curelty intolerance n efforts to make India an Islamic country. The Marathas posed a major hurdle n he died fighting them n seeing his dreams shattered. Aurangzeb spinner n made his own (taqiyah )skull caps, shows his strong belief in religion n in policy of establishing da ul Islam. One has to understand Islam to know the hidden agenda. It very well known that to lie n stab in back for Islam is perfectly forgiven n a way to spread Islam. Taqiyah or kitman. It is well known Islam spread more by sword than words. The writer is wrong n following appeasement policy.

  22. There is a concreted effort to portray Aurangzeb as a saint ever since the rise of BJP. But in the end truth will triumph.

    It is also to be noted that Hindu rulers seldom destroyed mosques even after victories.

    So the lesson to be drawn from these historical analysis is that Hindus should learn from these Muslim behaviours and destroy mosques as punishment whenever possible. Will liberal historians then be kind to the Hindus? I doubt.

    • The absence of positive performance was compensated with boastful pride of the ability to destroy. That is perhaps an inherited attitude when our orators in Pakistan proudly talk of what we destroyed: our ancestors destroyed Indian idols and kings followed by the recent smashing of the peaceful Buddha; recently we destroyed the Soviet Union, we have pushed America to disaster, we shall destroy India, Europe and every system of “Jahiliah”, including our own systems and people in Pakistan and Afghanistan. This mindset hardly ever asks: what did we create or build? DAWN

  23. What about his dogged drive to over-expand his empire.? The 27 year old war against the Marathas eventually finished the Mughal empire. The brutal manner in which he tortured and killed Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj is pointer to this. The unwarranted brutality sparked a wave of disgust against Aurangzeb. What followed was an unparalleled chapter in the history of India – 27 years of brave resistance by the Marathas against the Mughal tyranny, which brought the empire on its knees. Aurangzeb was pinned to Maharashtra, never went back to Agra, his capital in the north. Lakhs of Mughal soldiers lost their lives, the Mughal treasury was emptied due to the seemingly endless war. Aurangzeb died as a frustrated and defeated emperor. His successors were nothing more than bunch of jokers. In effect, Aurangzeb caused the death of his own empire due to his brutality and futile ambition to conquer the Deccan. No matter what this historian writes, 12 crore Maharashtrians will always hate and despise Aurangzeb, the tyrant who murdered their Chhatrapati.

  24. Calling Dara as “mushrik ” and levying ‘Jaziya ” on Hindus, was not a plan to make India Darul Islam then what? Calling iconoclasm as aberration when it was a norm and Making norm of questionable patronage of temples is ridiculous. The whole article is making a hero out of a most hated fanatic Islamic jihadi. BS.

  25. Do not run down valour of Rajputs in Indian history by continuing ethnical distortions of the past scripted by few communist historians like Irfan Habibi & Ram Chandra Guha. Please revisit history and read several farmans issued by Aurangzeb to carry out ethnic cleansing of Rajputs in India akin to present days Kashmiri Pandits in Kashmir. In your adulations for Mughals the looters and jihadist like Aurangzeb who sent nearly Rupiah 6,60,000 to Mecca collected from Rajputs as Jaziya. For you info, one rupiah could buy you 280 kgs of rice then. Meena Bhargava should not present her Brahmnical & Mughal mind set by concoting false narratives

  26. Don’t ever try to belittle the fact that he is a jihadi, mass murderer who killed sikh gurus and their children, murders hindus and destroyed temples

  27. While historians should continue to do their research and come out with more findings, better analysis and reasoned interpretations, it must be noted that as far as political discourse is concerned, we have to treat Indian history from 711 AD onward till 1947 as a period of foreign rule/ domination irrespective of the religion of the ruler or for that matter, benevolence, contribution to culture, society, or whether they integrated themselves with India eventually etc. Once this issue is settled, anything dealing with them like their monuments, street or city names etc is subject to popular will. This should not be viewed as hatred of other religions, as such acts are against the foreign rulers and not their religions. Thus, changing name of Bombay to Mumbai can not be taken as done out of hatred of Christianity but directed at eliminating at influence of foreign rulers and their acts.

    Besides, so called Indic religions have no concept of proselytization and hence, we cannot allow practices of conversion on other religions in India, as it offers no level playing field to Indic religions.

    Once these issues are well settled and accepted, we will have much better appreciation of the findings and analysis from historical research.

    • your all points are right except 711-1947, I think it started in 1206 and was resisted in between dusing Marathas, Rana Sanga, Ranjit etc. Maraths almost took it out, Ranjit and Rana in some parts

  28. Jadunath Sarkar Works published by OBS is a must read by all those who have very little knowledge about positive rules of Mughals. Sarkar’s India Through The Ages is a classic.

    • Jadunath Sarkar is one of those writers/ historians who were allowed/ promoted to write history as Nehruvian Congress wanted and a part of the systematic destruction of our ancient heritage, especially Hindu Rulers. Our heritage is over 5000 years old but what these so-called historians including Ram Chandra Guha and Romilla Thapar is 100 years of Mughals and 250 years of Britishers. The fact is these rulers won battles against Indian rulers only by bribing other Indians or by stabbing in the back, which was never wrote in the public domain.

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