Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Aurangzeb; Religious policy

Aurangzeb; Religious policy, The Ideas:



                  Muhi-ud-din Muhammad Auranzeb was born on 3rd November, 1618(N.S) at Dohad near Ujjain.1 At early age he became a good scholar of Arabic and Persian, and learned Turki and Hindi as well. While he did not care for painting, music and other fine arts. At the end of 1634A.D, he was appointed mansabdar of 10,000Zat and 4,000Sawar. Then he was given charge of Bundela expedition against Jujhar Singh of Orchha, which was his first experience of war and diplomacy. So, from the very early age he acquired reputation as a good soldier, administrator and diplomat.
                 Aurangzeb was staunch Muslim who could not go against the law of Islam.5 This orthodoxy misinterpreted by historians, i.e he was intolerant to other religions. While in his own book (Waqi-i-Alamgiri) he stated, "No person shall in unlawful way interfere with or disturb the Brahmins and the other Hindus resident in their places."
                 The "Ideas" of Aurangzeb can be judged from his personality. His personality can be studied from two dimensions; as a religious man and as a statesman. As a religious man he was staunch Muslim and careful and conciliatory to non-Muslims.
                As a statesman Aurangzeb attended in person every detail of state’s administration. Due to his long term, campaigns and reduction of taxes, financially he became weak. Toward rebels and his opponents he was conciliatory in a limit while he was more conciliatory and merciful toward his allies.

Aurangzeb’s Religious policy:


Aurangzeb’s Farman:

                   Aurangzeb addressed Abul-Hassan, the governor of Benares, which clearly shows that the Emperor was tolerant to Hindus. He stated that, “Since… all our upright intentions are engaged in promoting the public welfare and bettering the conditions of all classes, high and low; therefore accordance with our Holy law, we have decided that ancient temples shall not be overthrown, but the new one shall not be built… no person shall in unlawful way interfere with or disturb the Brahmins and other Hindu residents in the places, so that they may as before, remain in their occupation and continue with peace of mind to offer prayer for the continuance of our God-given Empire.” (J.A.S.B. and Waqi-i-Alamgiri).

Appointment of non-Muslim on high ranks offices:

                  A Farman addressed by Aurangzeb that there should be one hindu and one muslim on each of the civil and military departments of the state.There were a good number of Hindus who occupied the key posts in the civil and military department of the state during his reign. Jaswant singh who caused untold trouble and suffering to the Mughals and who went against the emperor in the war of succession and in the battle of KHAJWA. He not only pardoned him for his treacherous conduct and honored him with position of power and trust. Many Rajputs princes for Aurangzeb against the Hindus as his soldiers and generals. Such as jai singh who sent by aurangzaib to punish shiva je (1665).
Responsibility of Aurangzeb’s religious policy towards the decline of mughal empire in the view of historians:

Religious intolerance:

In the view of historians Aurangzeb was intolerant towards non-Muslims. In issuing ordinance, Aurangzeb was not favoring Hindus, but only enforcing Islamic law. He would destroy new temples and would not allow old temples to be repaired, but he would not permit old temples to be demolished. While on the other place the writer said that these restrictions did not apply on rajputs, not presumably to the other Hindu material communities whose services Aurangzeb needed. This shows two opposite interpretations of the writer.
             One writer gave the reference of Manucci that the higher of the court who were Hindus should not longer hold their charges. While in contrast he written that in the second half of the Aurangzeb’s reign the percentage of Hindu officers was higher than ever before under the Mughals___ in the rank of commander of 5,000 and above, it was 32.9% under Aurangzeb as against 14% under Akbar’s reign; among all officers of the rank of 500 and above, it was 31.6% under Aurangzeb as against 22.5% under Akbar’s reign.
         Orthodox personality of Aurangzeb is described by historians as anti-Hindu. That during the reign of Aurangzeb’s predecessor’s large number of Hindus was made Mansabdar. But Aurangzeb, however, avoided this practice. Thus total number of Hidus Mansabdar fell.18  While some historians accepted that the number of Hindus, holding high position in the Mughal service under Aurangzeb was greater than any of his predecessor.
The historian tried to prove that the religious policy of Auaranzeb caused the opposition of Hindus which caused the decline of Mughal Empire. It is said that Auarangzeb bigotry was responsible for the Hindu revivalist movement. There is little doubt that even if there had been no Aurangzeb the Hindu revivalist movement would have come.

The Ideas of Aurangzeb:

              The Ideas of a person can be judged from his actions. Aurangzeb ruled almost 50 years, which shows that he had sage political Ideas. On the other hand the historians considered him staunch Muslim and were conciliatory toward non-Muslims which show that he had responsible personality.

Aurangzeb as a statesman and historians:

              As a ruler, Aurangzeb attended in person to every detail of the state administration. He was past master in diplomacy. He could not be beaten in any kind of intrigue or secret manipulation. He was a master of pen and sword. On the other hand some historians considered him a fail administrator. One writer stated that his excessive distrust of officials and constant interference in the business of different department kept the local officials in a state of uncertainty and destroyed their initiative and efficiency. This led to administrative degeneration. If his direct interference in state business was degenerated his administration system then how was it possible that he ruled almost 50 years with success.

Aurangzeb policies:

              The policies of Aurangzeb were of different kinds; his financial policy, his imperialistic policy, his military policy and his diplomatic policy.

Financial policy:

          When Aurangzeb sat on the throne, in the economic sphere he showed a determined opposition to all illegal exactions (abwab) and all the taxes which not authorized by Islamic law. On the other hand his imperialistic design became a burden on treasury of the state. It shows that Aurangzeb no bright idea about economy.

Imperialistic policy:

        During the long reign of Aurangzeb, the Mughal Empire reached to its maximum extent. Imperialistic idea of Aurangzeb can be judged through his expansionist policy. As an imperial authority he is considered on the front on Mughal’s dynasty.

Military policy:

           Aurangzeb was following the same military system as his predecessors were adopted i.e. Mansabdari system. The vast empire and his successful campaigns indicated that he was a great general and had healthy and strong military system.

Diplomatic policy:

           Aurangzeb was a past master in diplomacy. In his diplomatic field he was the man of conciliatory approach. Some historians criticized him that he reversed the Rajput policy of Akbar. In fact, he rejected the matrimonial alliances with Rajputs, he adopted the conciliatory approach to Rajputs, on the death of Maharaja Jaswant Singh Aurangzeb ordered the two widows of Maharaja Jaswant Singh to be detained at the Mughal court along with their sons. Aurangzeb was not willing to subjugate Rajputs but he wanted to protect the successors of Maharaja from other chiefs who were in the lust of power.
            An emperor can’t bear rebellious activity in his empire so, when Marathas started rebellious activities against the Mughal Empire, Aurangzeb was compelled to pressurize them. Till the death of Aurangzeb were able to start rebellious activities against the emperor.
              Aurangzeb has been criticized on the eve of crushing Sikh community. No doubt he did this, not because of an anti- non-Muslims policy but because of the political activities of Sikhs; such as Guru Govind Singh organized the Khalsa into military organization which compelled him to suppress them.
              Aurangzeb was a staunch Muslim but it did not mean that he was against non-Muslims. As a statesman he was just a ruler and not a religious man because he started his first campaign against the people of North West Frontier who were Muslims and next campaign was against Golcunda and Bijapur whose rulers were also Muslims.

Critical analysis/Conclusion:

                                      Aurangzeb has been criticized by historians on the eve of his religious policy and administration. In the regime of Aurangzeb Hindus had not an energetic opportunity to stand against Aurangzeb, because the sources of communication among the states were strengthen and among Hindu rajas or chiefs were weak and this situation became opposite in Aurangzeb’s successor’s regime.
In Aurangzeb’s regime Hindus were in the process of development and in the reign of his successors they had achieved a bit development, like their communication became stronger. There was no direct relation between villages in Aurangzeb’s reign. Being a strong and effective ruler his central government was effective and controlled the remote areas effectively. The successors of Auangzeb were not as much effective to control remote states through central government and Subadars and Jagirdars enjoyed virtual autonomy.
The provincial chiefs wanted to strengthen themselves against central government and Hindu rajas being unable to overthrown the provincial chiefs, made alliances with chiefs and shared power with them, which empowered the governors and the Hindu community and some provincial chiefs declared their states independent.
The fall of the Mughal power has been, by some, regarded in term of Muslims decline and Hindu revival, a view which has been challenged by such scholars as Dr. Tara Chand and Dr. Percival Spear. According to former, the Hindus and Muslims culture were both in this period static and stagnant as compared with new outlook on life of the European people under the Intellectual revolution of the age of reason or Enightenment which posed intricate economic, political and social problems or worldwide significance.
The death of Aurangzeb on March 3, 1707 A.C. is generally regarded as marking the beginning of the end of the Mughal Empire. If implication is to hold Aurangzeb responsible for creating situation which brought about the disintegration of the empire then such an inference is neither nor fair, that Alamgir battled with internal and external enemies of empire courageously, no one would deny. For nearly half a century he maintained the power and prestige of Mughal Empire, sustained the unity of the country. So dear to him and kept the ship of the state on an even keel. These were his great administrative malaise of empire was so deep-rooted that no one could have permanently cured it.In short it can be said that Aurangzeb can not be directed for the decline of the Mughal Empire because Aurangzeb is the least understood of Indian monarchs.


  1. Any explanation for why he destroyed the holiest Hindu temple (Vishwanath) at Varanasi?

    1. "A simple explanation would be that it was simply an example of his orthodoxy: it has been brought to the notice of the emperor that both Hindus and Muslims used to come from far of places to study under the Brahmans at these places.R P Tripathi's argument that these places had become centers of sedition finds no contemporary collaboration.
      On the other hand, it does appear that Aurangzeb had begun to look upon the preservation of prominent temples as a kind of guarantee of good conduct on the part of the Hindus of that area. thus, places of worship began to be treated as fit objects of reprisal in case of misconduct or rebellion."
      "...Aurangzeb adopted a policy of selective destruction or bricking up of a number of Hindu temples, either as a warning to the local Hindu rajas, or as a reprisal for rebelliousness. Thus, some of the famous temples of Vrindavan, Mathura, Kashi and Thatta etc were destroyed as a part of this policy"

      -Satish Chandra: Historiography, Religion and State in Medieval India.