History of Aurangzib

aspect of history

History of Aurangzib is a book in five volumes by Indian historian Jadunath Sarkar about the Mughal ruler Aurangzeb.



Volume I


Volume II


Volume III

  • By the theory of its origin the Muslim State is a theocracy. Its true king is God, and earthly rulers are merely His agents, bound to enforce His law on all. Civil Law is completely subordinated to Religious Law and, indeed, merges its existence in the latter. The civil authorities exist solely to spread and enforce the true faith. In such a State, infidelity is logically equivalent to treason, because the infidel repudiates the authority of the true king and pays homage to his rivals, the false gods and goddesses. All the resources of the State, all the forces under the political authorities, are in strict legality at the disposal of the missionary propaganda of the true faith.
  • Therefore, the toleration of any sect outside the fold of orthodox Islam is no better than compounding with sin. And the worst form of sin is polytheism, the belief that the one true God has partners in the form of other deities. Such a belief is the rankest ingratitude (kufr)* to Him who gives us our life and daily bread.
  • Islamic theology, therefore, tells the true believer that his highest duty is to make ‘‘exertion (jihad) in the path of God,’’} by waging war against infidel lands (dar-ul-harb) till they become a part of the realm of Islam (dar-ul-Islam) and their populations are converted into true believers. After conquest the entire infidel population becomes theoretically reduced to the status of slaves of the conquering army. The men taken with arms are to be slain or sold into slavery and their wives and children reduced to servitude. As for the non-combatants among the vanquished, if they are not massacred outright,—as the Canon lawyer Shafi declares to be the Quranic injunction,— it is only to give them a respite till they are so wisely guided as to accept the true faith.
  • The conversion of the entire population to Islam and the extinction of every form of dissent, is the ideal of the Muslim State. If any infidel is suffered to exist in the community, it is as a necessary evil, and for a transitional period only. Political and social disabilities must be imposed on him, and _ bribes offered to him from the public funds, to hasten the day of his spiritual enlightenment and the addition of his name to the roll of true believers.* The growth of the infidel population in number or wealth would, therefore, defeat the very end of the State. Hence, a true Islamic king is bound to look on jubilantly when his infidel subjects cut each other's throats, for ‘‘whichever side may be slain, Islam is the gainer,” (har tarf ke shawwad kushta sud-i-Islam ast). If for instance, two rival orders of Hindu monks fought each other to the death for precedence in bathing in a holy tank, a Muslim king like Akbar was expected to abdicate his function of guardian of the public peace, and assist them in mutually thinning the number of the infidels.
  • A non-Muslim, therefore, cannot be a citizen of the State; he is a member of a depressed class; his status is a modified form of slavery. He lives under a contract (zimma) with the State: for the life and property that are grudgingly spared to him by the Commander of the Faithful he must undergo political and social disabilities, and pay a commutation-money (jaziya). In short, his continued existence in the State after the conquest of his country by the Muslims is conditional upon his person and property being made subservient to the cause of Islam.
  • He must pay a tax for his land (kharaj), from which the early Muslims were exempt; he must pay other exactions for the maintenance of the army, in which he cannot enlist even if he offers to render personal service instead of paying the poll-tax; and he must show by humility of dress and behaviour that he belongs to a subject class. No non-Muslim (zimmi) can wear fine dresses, ride on horseback or carry arms; he must behave respectfully and submissively to every member of the dominant sect.*
  • The zimmi is under certain legal disabilities with regard to testimony in lawcourts, protection under criminal law, and marriage. The State, as the other party in the contract (zimma), guarantees to him security of life and property and a modified protection in the exercise of his religion :—he cannot erect new temples, and has to avoid any offensive publicity in the exercise of his faith. But everything short of open physical persecution,—everything that would not be a flagrant breach of the contract of protection, can be legitimately practised by the Muslim ruler to reduce the number of the undesirable alien sect.
  • Every device short of massacre in cold blood was resorted to in order to convert heathen subjects. In addition to the poll-tax and public degradation in dress and demeanour imposed on them, the non-Muslims were subjected to various hopes and fears. Rewards in the form of money and public employment were offered to apostates from Hinduism.
  • The leaders of Hindu religion and society were systematically repressed, to deprive the sect of spiritual instruction, and their religious gatherings and processions were forbidden in order to prevent the growth of solidarity and a sense of communal strength among them. No new temple was allowed to be built nor any old one to be repaired, so that the total disappearance of all places of Hindu worship was to be merely a question of time. But even this delay, this slow operation of Time, was intolerable to many of the more fiery spirits of Islam, who tried to hasten the abolition of “‘infidelity’” by anticipating the destructive hand of Time and forcibly pulling down temples.
  • This motive sanctified all his massacres and outrages in the eyes of his fellow-believers. Again, in 1569, when a noble named Husain Khan went on a private predatory expedition into the Sewalik mountains on ‘‘hearing that the bricks of the temples were of silver and gold, and conceiving a desire for this and all other unguarded treasures, of which he had heard a lying report,’’ the pious historian Al Badayuni (ii. 125) calls it a religious war. When Muhammad Adil Shah sent his armies to attack the Hindus of the Karnatak, whose only fault was their wealth, his Court historian designated this campaign of slaughter, rapine and outrage as the realization of a long cherished pious resolution. (Bas. Sal. 304.) The murder of infidels (kafir-kushi) is counted a merit in a Muslim. It is not necessary that he should tame his own passions or mortify his flesh; it is not necessary for him to grow a rich growth of spirituality. He has only to slay a certain class of his fellow-beings or plunder their lands and wealth, and this act in itself would raise his soul to heaven.
  • Nor has it been conducive to the true interests of its followers. Muslim polity formed ‘‘the faith- ful’’ into a body with no other profession than war. As long as there were any fresh lands to conquer and any rich kafirs to plunder, all went well with the State.* | The dominant body prospered and multiplied rapidly ; even arts and industries, literature and painting of a certain type were fostered. But when the tide of Muslim expansion reached its farthest limit and broke in vain on the hills of Assam and Chatgaon, or the arid rocks of Maharashtra, there was nothing to avert a rapid downfall. The State had no economic basis, and was not able to stand a time of peace. Repose was fatal not only to its growth but to its very life.
  • When public offices are distributed in consideration of race or creed and not of merit, when birth and not efficiency is the qualification demanded in those who are to serve the State, public posts rightly come to be regarded as the spoils of war ; the official system becomes a hereditary form of military pension and not a machinery for doing certain necessary services to the community at a minimum cost and maximum efficiency. The non- Muslim populations are, therefore, driven to conclude that they have no lot or part in such a State; it is alien to them, and its fall would mean no injury to the community but only a personal loss to a body of self-seekers. The Islamic theocracy when set up over a composite population has the worst vices of oligarchy and of alien rule combined.
  • Therefore, the growth and progress of non- Muslims, even their continued existence, is incompatible with the basic principles of a Muslim State. The political community is in a condition of unstable equilibrium, till either the dissenters are wiped out or the sceptre passes out of Muslim hands. The literal interpretation of the Quranic Law sets up a chronic antagonism between the rulers and the ruled, which has, in the end, broken up every Islamic State with a composite population. And the reign of Aurangzib was to illustrate this truth in a form clear to the meanest intellect.
  • When a class of men is publicly depressed and harassed by law and executive caprice alike, it merely contents itself with dragging on an animal existence. With every generous instinct of the soul crushed out of them, with intellectual culture merely adding a keen edge to their sense of humiliation, the Hindus could not be expected to produce the utmost of which they were capable; their lot was to be hewers of wood and drawers of water to their masters, to bring grist to the fiscal mill, to develop a low cunning and flattery as the only means of saving what they could out of the fruits of their own labour. Amidst such social conditions, the human hand and the human mind cannot achieve their best; the human soul cannot soar to its highest pitch. The barrenness of the Hindu intellect and the meanness of spirit of the Hindu upper classes are the greatest condemnation of Muhammadan rule in India. The Islamic political tree, judged by its fruit, was an utter failure.
  • Aurangzib began his attack on Hinduism in an insidious way. In the first year of his reign, in a charter granted to a priest of Benares, he avowed that his religion forbade him to allow the building of new temples, but did not enjoin the destruction of old ones. During his viceroyalty of Gujrat, 1644, he had desecrated the recently built Hindu temple of Chintaman in Ahmadabad by killing a cow in it and then turned the building into a mosque. He had at that time also demolished many other Hindu temples in the province; these were probably new constructions. An order issued early in his reign has been preserved in which the local officers in every town and village of Orissa from Katak to Medinipur are called upon to pull down all temples, including even clay huts, built during the last 10 or 12 years, and to allow no old temple to be repaired.
  • Next, he took a step further, and in the | 2th year of his reign (9th April, 1669) he issued a general order ‘“‘to demolish all the schools and temples of the infidels and to put down their religious teaching and practices.” His destroying hand now fell on the great shrines that commanded the’ veneration of the Hindus all over India,—such as the second temple of Somnath* built by the pious zeal of Bhimadeva soon after the destruction of the older and more famous one at the hands of Mahmud of Ghazni, the Vishwanath temple of Benares, and the Keshav Rai temple of Mathura, that ‘“wonder of the age’’ on which a Bundela Rajah had lavished 33 lakhs of Rupees. And the governors of the provinces had no peace till they could certify to the Emperor that the order of demolition had been carried out in their respective provinces.
  • The holy city of Mathura has always been the special victim of Muslim bigotry. It was the birth- place of Krishna, the most popular of the ‘‘false gods’’ of India,—a deity for whom _ millions of “‘infidels’’ felt a personal love. The city stood on the king's highway between Agra and Delhi, and its lofty spires, almost visible from the Agra palace, —-seemed to taunt the Mughal emperors with lukewarmness in “‘exalting [slam and casting in- fidelity down.’" Aurangzib’s baleful eye had been directed to the Hindu Bethlehem very early. He had appointed a “‘religious man,’’ Abdun Nabi, as faujdar of Mathura to repress the Hindus.
  • On 14th October, 1666, learning that there was a stone railing in the temple of Keshav Rai, which Dara Shukoh had presented to it, Aurangzib ordered it to be removed, as a scandalous example of a Muslim's coquetry with idolatry. And finally in January 1670, his zeal, stimulated by the pious meditations of Ramzan, led him to send forth com- mands to destroy this temple altogether and to change the name of the city to /slamabad. Ujjain suffered a similar fate at the same time. A systematic plan was followed for carrying out the policy of iconoclasm. Officers were appointed in all the sub-divisions and cities of the empire as Censors of Morals {muhtasib), to enforce the regulations of Islam, such as the suppression of the use of wine and bhang, and of gambling. The destruction of Hindu places of worship was one of their chief duties, and so large was the number of officers employed in the task that a ‘‘Director General’? (darogha) had to be placed over them to guide their activity.
  • How strictly the imperial orders were enforced we can see from the fact that even in remote East Bengal and Orissa, on the extreme frontier of the empire, the local officers sent their men round to pull down all the temples and smash all the images within their jurisdictions. In June 1680, the temples of Amber, the capital of the loyal State of Jaipur, were broken down.
  • Neither age nor experience of life softened Aurangzib’s bigotry. When an old man of over eighty, we find him inquiring whether the Hindu worship, which he had put down at Somnath early in his reign, had been revived through the slackness of the local governor, and, again, telling one of his generals to take his own time in destroying a certain famous temple in the Deccan, as ‘‘it had no legs to walk away on.’’ In 1674 he confiscated all the lands held by Hindus as religious grants (wazifa) in Gujrat. [Mirat, 305.]
  • As the scholars and divines of the tiiae informed Aurangzib, the books on Muslim Canon Law lay down that the proper method of collecting the jaziya is for the zimmi to pay the tax personally; if he sends the money by the hand of an agent it is to be refused; the taxed person must come on foot and make the payment standing, while the receiver should be seated and after placing his hand above that of the zimmi should take the money and cry out, “‘O, zimmi! pay the commutation money.”’
  • By imperial orders the jaziya was reimposed on the “‘unbelievers’’ in all parts of the empire from 2nd April, 1679, in order, as the Court historian records, to ‘‘spread Islam and put down the practice of infidelity."" When the news spread, the Hindus of Delhi and its environs gathered together in hundreds and stood on the bank of the Jamuna below the balcony of morning salute in the palace-wall, and piteously cried for the withdrawal of the impost. But the Emperor turned a deaf ear to their plaintive wail. When next Friday he wanted to ride to the Jama Mosque to attend the public prayer, the whole road from the gate of the Fort to the mosque was blocked by a crowd of Hindu suppliants, whose number was swollen by all the shopkeepers and craftsmen of Delhi city and the cantonment bazar, out for a demonstration. The crowd did not disperse in spite of warning; and the Emperor after waiting vainly for an hour ordered elephants to be driven through the mass of men, trampling them down and clearing a way for him. The Hindu protest continued for some days, but in the end the Emperor's firmness triumphed and the subject people ceased to protest. A temperate and reasoned letter from Shivaji urging the impolicy of the new impost and appealing to Aurangzib to think of the common Father of man- kind and the equality of all sincere beliefs in God’s eyes, met with no better success.
  • In levying the jaziya, Aurangzib was deaf to the pleadings of pity and political expediency alike. In Mughal Deccan, particularly in Burhanpur, the tax could be realized only by force. But Aurangzib was inexorable and ordered the Prefect of the City police to chastise every defaulter. This had the desired effect, and a strict collector like Mir Abdul Karim increased the yield of the tax from Rs. 26,000 a year for the whole city to more than four times the amount in three months for half the city only (1682). When a minister wished to oust his rival from favour, he had only to complain that the latter had excused some Hindus from paying the poll-tax;* and the Emperor would plainly tell the lenient revenue minister, ‘“‘You are free to grant remissions of revenue of all other kinds; but if you remit any man’s jaziya—which | have succeeded with great difficulty in laying on the infidels, it will be an impious change (bidat) and will cause the whole system of collecting the poll-tax to fall into disorder.”’
  • An army of Muslim collectors and amins,— usually men of reputed scholarship and orthodoxy, —spread over the country to assess and realize the tax. So large was their number, that in 1687 an Inspector-General of jaziya was appointed to tour through the four provinces of the Deccan and see that these men did their work properly. (M.A. 297.)
  • The officially avowed policy in reimposing the jaziya was to increase the number of Muslims by putting pressure on the Hindus.
  • From time immemorial, service in the revenue department had brought daily bread to middle class Hindus able to read and write. Under Aurangzib, ‘“‘qanungo-ship on condition of turning Muslim"’ became a proverbial expression; and several families in the Panjab still preserve his letters patent in which this condition of office is unblushingly laid down. Several other instances of it are also recorded in the extant news-letters of his Court.
  • In 1671 an ordinance was issued that the rent-collectors of the Crownlands must be Muslims, and all viceroys and taluqdars were ordered to dismiss their Hindu head clerks (peshkars) and accountants (diwanian) and replace them by Muslims. As the oficial historian of the reign exultantly points out, ‘By one stroke of the pen he dismissed all the Hindu writers from his service.”" (M.A. 528.) It was found impossible to run the administration after dismissing the Hindu peshkars of the provincial governors, but in some places Muslims replaced Hindu kroris (district rent-collectors). Later on, the Emperor yielded so far to necessity as to allow half the peshkars of the revenue minister and paymaster’s departments to be Hindus and the other half Muhammadans.
  • In March 1695 all Hindus, with the exception of the Rajputs, were forbidden to ride palkis, elephants or thorough-bred horses, or to carry arms. (K. K. ii. 395; M. A. 370.)
  • On certain days of the calendar, the Hindus all over India hold fairs near their holy places. Men, women and children in vast numbers gather together, nominally to bathe in the sacred water, worship the idol, or follow the religious procession, but mainly to buy things in the booths set up and the packs opened by the traders. To our village women in particular such fairs are the only means of relieving the monotony of their hfe of toil and the only occasion for an outing in the whole year. Here they meet their distant friends and kinsfolk, and enjoy the show. The Indian Muslims, no less than the Hindus, flock to such gatherings. They offer a combination of amusement, business and piety, probably in a gradually decreasing proportion. The traders do a roaring business. The Mughal Govern- ment on such occasions earned a large sum from market-toll in each of the provinces. A very grand fair of this kind used to be held at a tank in the village of Malwa up to the 14th century; but Firuz Shah Tughlag put it down with bloodshed. Aurangzib revived the same policy and in 1668 forbade such fairs throughout his dominions. (Elliot, in. 380. K. K. nn. 212.) The coincidence was ominous: the Tughlaq empire perished only one generation after Firuz.
  • Early in 1669 a most formidable popular rising took place in the Mathura district. The Indian peasant, especially in Agra, Mathura and Oudh, was a bad taxpayer in Muslim times, and the collection of revenue often required the use of force. Akbar’s wise regulations for giving fixity to the State demand and protecting the ryots from illegal exactions had disappeared with him. Under his successors a revenue collector was, no doubt, removed from his post when his oppression became intolerable and the public outcry against him repeatedly reached the Emperor’s ears. But such cases were exceptional. In the Mathura district in particular, nothing was done by Government to win the love and willing obedience of the peasantry, but rather a policy was followed which left behind it a legacy of undying hatred.
  • For instance, we read how a local faujdar named Murshid Quli Khan Turkman (who died in 1638) took advantage of his campaigns against refractory tenants to gratify his lust. When the villagers were defeated he seized all their most beautiful women and placed them in his harem. Another practice of this licentious officer is thus described in the Masir- ul-umara (iii. 422): ‘On the birthday of Krishna, a vast gathering of Hindu men and women takes place at Govardhan on the Jamuna opposite Mathura. The Khan, paint- ing his forehead and wearing a dhoti like a Hindu, used to walk up and down in the crowd. Whenever he saw a woman whose beauty filled even the Moon with envy, he snatched her away like a wolf pouncing upon a flock, and placing her in the boat which his men had kept ready on the bank, he sped to Agra. The Hindu [for shame] never divulged what had happened to his daughter.”’
  • There were other temptations as well for seducing Hindus from their faith. Some of the converts were, by the Emperor’s orders, placed on elephants and carried in procession through the city to the accompaniment of a band and flags. Others got daily stipend, four annas at the lowest ….. A third instrument of the policy of putting economic pressure on unbelievers was the granting of rewards to converts and the offering of posts in the public services on condition of turning a Muslim ….. Infidels were bribed into accepting the royal faith by the offer of many allowances, robes of honour and posts, liberation from prison, or succession to disputed property‛.
    • J.N. Sarkar, Aurangzeb, III, pp.181-83. in Bhatnagar, V. S. (2020). Emperor Aurangzeb and Destruction of Temples, Conversions and Jizya : (a study largely based on his court bulletins or akhbārāt darbār muʻalla)
  • Jizya was first imposed by Prophet Muhammad, who bade his followers, ‚Tight those who do not profess the True Faith (i.e. Islam) till they pay Jizya with the hand in humility‛. As Sarkar writes, ‚the last two words of this command have been taken by the Muslim commentators to mean that the tax should be levied in a manner humiliating to the tax payer. Hence it was laid down that the zimmÍ must pay the Jizya personally and not through an agent, that he must come on foot, make the payment standing while the Jizya receiver should be seated and with his hand above that of the payer take the money crying out ‘O ZimmÍ, pay the Jizya’.
    • Sarkar, Aurangzeb, III, .176. in Bhatnagar, V. S. (2020). Emperor Aurangzeb and Destruction of Temples, Conversions and Jizya : (a study largely based on his court bulletins or akhbārāt darbār muʻalla)
  • On the poor, therefore, the incidence of the tax (Jizya) was at least 6 % of the gross income; on the middle it ranged from 6 to 1/4 %, and on the rich it was even lighter than 2 1/2 per thousand. In violation of modern canons of Taxation, the Jizya hit the poorest portion of the population hardest. It would never be less than Rs. 3 1/2 on a man, which was the money value of nine maunds of wheat flour at the average market price, at the end of the 16th century. The State, therefore, at the lowest incidence of the tax, annually took away from the poor man the full value of one year’s food as the price of religious indulgence‛, he writes.
    • Sarkar, Aurangzeb, III, p.177. in Bhatnagar, V. S. (2020). Emperor Aurangzeb and Destruction of Temples, Conversions and Jizya : (a study largely based on his court bulletins or akhbārāt darbār muʻalla)

Volume IV

  • Shivaji’s escape from captivity caused lifelong regret to Aurangzib. As the Emperor wrote in his last will and testament: “The greatest pillar of Government consists in keeping of information about everything that happens in the kingdom, — while even a minute’s negligence results in shame for long years. See, the flight of the wretch Shiva was due to carelessness, but it has involved me in all these distracting campaigns to the end of my days.”
  • But whatever might be the moral quality of the means he employed, his success was a dazzling reality. This jagirdar’s son proved himself the irrepressible opponent of the Mughal empire and all its resources. This fact deeply impressed the minds of his contemporaries in India and abroad. Aurangzib was in despair as to how he could subdue Shivaji. A significant statement is made in a news- letter of his Court in 1670 that the Emperor read a des- patch from the Deccan, reporting some raids of Shivaji, and then “remained silent.” In the inner council of the Court he often anxiously asked whom he should next send against Shivaji, seeing that nearly all his great generals had failed in the Deccan, and Mahabat Khan irreverently replied with a sneer at Abdul Wahhab’s influence over the Emperor, “No general is necessary. A decree from the Chief Qazi will be sufficient to extinguish Shiva!” The young Persian king, Shah Abbas II, sent a letter taunting Aurangzib, “You call yourself a Padishah, but cannot sub- due a mere zamindar like Shiva. I am going to India with an army to teach you your business.”
  • To the Hindu world in that age of renewed persecution, Shivaji appeared as the star of a new hope, the protector of the ritualistic paint-mark (tilak) on the forehead of Hindus, and the saviour of Brahmans. (Bhushan’s poems.) His Court and his son’s became the rallying-point of the opposition to Aurangzib. The two rivals were both super- men, but contrasts in character.

Volume V

  • The life of Aurangzib was one long tragedy, — a story of man battling in vain against an invisible but inexorable Fate, a tale of how the strongest human endeavour was baffled by the forces of the age. A strenuous reign of fifty years ends in colossal failure. And yet this king was one of the greatest rulers of Asia in intelligence, character, and enterprise. He was, in an extraordinary degree hardworking, active, moral, and inspired by the sense of duty. He denied himself pleasure and repose, steeled his heart against the seductions of the senses and the appeals of pity and human weakness, and governed his people according to the beat ideals of his age and creed. And yet the result of fifty years of strong and good administration by this Puritan in the purple was the hopeless breaking up of his empire. This tragedy in history was developed with all the regularity of a perfect drama.
  • No fusion between the two classes was possible even with the passage of centuries, as they differed like poles in ideal and life. The Hindu is solitary, passive, other-worldly; his highest aim is self-realisation, the attainment of personal salvation by individual effort, private devotions and lonely austerities. To him birth is a misfortune and his fellow- beings so many sources of distraction from his one goal. Not by enjoyment of God’s gifts but by renunciation, not by joyous expansion but by repression of emotion, is he to attain to bliss.
  • The Muslim, on the other hand, is taught to feel that he is nothing if not a soldier of the militant force of Islam; he must pray in congregation; he must give proof of the sincerity of his faith by undertaking jihad or active exertion for the spread of his religion and the destruction of unbelief among other men. He is a missionary and cannot be indifferent to the welfare of his neighbours’ souls; nay, he must be ever alive to his duty of promoting the salvation of others by all means at his command, physical as much as spiritual. Then, again, Islam boldly avows that it is good for us to be here, that God has given the world to the faithful as an inheritance for their enjoyment.
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