Aurangzeb ascended the throne in 1659 AD after a long and bitter struggle with his father and three brothers. In all, Aurangzeb’s Empire comprises of 21 provinces, covering a geographical spread from Afghanistan in the northwest to the eastern extremity of Bengal in the east and from Kashmir in the north to the Carnatic in the south.
Personally, Aurangzeb led a life sketch on the virtues of a darvish (religious mendicant). But the empire itself exhibited all signs of medieval flourish. Among the contemporary politics of the world its size, population and wealth stood unequalled. But behind this imposing façade, the empire was crumbling from within.
Conquest and revolts
Aurangzeb’s whole reign was about 50 years which was full of devotion to ceaseless wars in different parts of India.
- In 1669-1670 A.D. the Jat peasantry rose against him in the Mathura region under the leadership of Gokula.
- The Bundelas under the leadership of Champati Rai and Chhatrasal rose in Bundelkhand. Meantime, Satnamis also started revolting. These rebellions were the outcomes of agrarian discontent and also against the reactionary policies of Aurangzeb. These rebellions were suppressed for the time being but eventually late to the rise of the autonomous Jat and Bundelas states in the early 18th century.
- Aurangzeb also caused serious rift in the Mughal-Rajput relation by his policy of annexation of Marwar after the death of Raja Jaswant Singh. The Marathas also succeeded in establishing their own kingdom in the Deccan under Shivaji.
- The fifth Guru Arjun Dev gave the Sikhs a permanent organization with regular sources of income. Har Govind(1606-1645 A.D.) son of Guru Arjun Dev, came into conflict with Shah Jahan and then Guru Tegh Bahadur started conflicting Aurangzeb. When Aurangzeb ordered the destruction of Sikh Gurudwaras and the expulsion of Guru’s followers from the cities, Guru Tegh Bahadur rose against the Empire. Thus, Aurangzeb completed the transformation of Sikhs from a Bhakti movement into a military brotherhood. Guru Tegh Bahadur was captured and taken to Delhi. He was asked to embrace Islam. When he refused to do so, Aurangzeb ordered tortures on him. Guru Tegh Bahadur was beheaded in December 1675 A.D. in Chandini Chowk. The Gurudwara Sheeshganj marks the site of his martyrdom. The tenth Guru Govind Singh organized the Sikhs into a strong military power against the Mughal Empire. Guru Govind Singh had to undergo great hardships and lost the life of all his four sons at the hands of Mughals, and flees from one place to another.
- Finally, he made his way to Deccan where he took up residence at Nanded. He returned to North India after the death of Aurangzeb. His life came to an end when he was stabbed by an Afghan in A.D. 1708. In the Deccan Aurangzeb annexed Bijapur and Golconda. Aurangzeb’s policies of short sightedness and bigotry became one of the reasons for the decline of Mughal Empire.
Development of Literature during Aurangzeb’s Reign
- He was a great scholar of Islamic theology and jurisprudence. He appointed a board of Ulema to compile authoritative passages from the standard of Hanafi Fiqh (Fatawa-ul- Alamgiri) for the guidance of the qazis known as ‘Fatawat-i- Alamgiri’ which was completed in AD 1672.
- Important historical woks- Mutakhab-ul-Lubab by Khafi Khan; Alamgir Namah by Mirza Muhammad Kazim; Masir-i- Alamgiri by Muhammad Saqi; Fatuhat-i- Alamgiri by Iswar Das.
Aurangzeb died in 1707 A.D. The weak successors were neither able to handle the affairs of the Empire nor the rebellions in different parts of it. They ruled like puppets in the hands of the nobles and the army.