Early Life

Aurangzeb was born on 3 November 1618, in Dahod, Gujarat. He was the third son and sixth child of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal.

In June 1626, his father led a unsuccessful rebellion against his grand father. Their grandparents’ (Nur Jahan and Jahangir) Lahore court kept Aurangzeb and his brother Dara Shukoh as hostages.

On 26 February 1628, Shah Jahan was officially declared the Mughal Emperor. Aurangzeb returned to live with his parents at Agra Fort, where he received his formal education in Arabic and Persian.

Young Aurangzeb
Young Aurangzeb

In 1635, Shah Jahan made Aurangzeb nominally in charge of the force in Bundelkhand with the intent of subduing the rebellious ruler of Orchha, Jhujhar Singh. The Mughal Army gathered and commenced the Siege of Orchha in 1635. The Aurangzeb was successful in removing Singh from power.

Rise to Power

Aurangzeb was appointed viceroy of the Deccan in 1636. Nizam Shahi boy-prince Murtaza Shah III  expansion over Mughal Vassal alarmed  Shah Jahan. The emperor dispatched Aurangzeb, who in 1636 brought the Nizam Shahi dynasty to an end.

In 1637, Aurangzeb married the Safavid princess Dilras Banu Begum, posthumously known as Rabia-ud-Daurani. She was his first wife and chief consort as well as his favourite.

In the same year, 1637, Shah Jahan placed Aurangzeb in charge of annexing the small Rajput kingdom of Baglana. He easily annexed the kingdom of Baglana.

In 1644, Aurangzeb’s sister, Jahanara, was burned when nearby lamp ignited the chemicals in her perfume. Aurangzeb suffered his father’s displeasure by not returning to Agra immediately but rather three weeks later.

In 1647, Shah Jahan moved Aurangzeb from Gujarat to be governor of Balkh. Aurangzeb replaced a his brother  Murad Baksh, who had proved ineffective there. By the end of this two-year campaign a vast sum of money had been expended for little gain.

War of Succession

Shah Jahan became ill with stranguary in 1657. Dara took care of his father in the newly built city of Shahjahanabad (Old Delhi).

After regaining some of his health, Shah Jahan moved to Agra and Dara urged him to send forces to challenge Shah Shuja and Murad. Both of his son had declared themselves rulers in their respective territories. Shah Shuja was defeated at Banares in February 1658.  The army sent to deal with Murad discovered to their surprise that he and Aurangzeb had combined their forces. Murad and Aurangzeb agreed to partition the empire once they had gained control of it.

The two armies clashed at Dharmat in April 1658, with Aurangzeb being the victor.

Dara scrambled to form alliances in order to defeat his brothers but found that Aurangzeb had already courted key potential candidates. Dara’s disparate, hastily concocted army clashed with Aurangzeb’s well-disciplined, battle-hardened force at the Battle of Samugarh in late May. Neither Dara’s men nor his generalship were any match for Aurangzeb. Dara had also become over-confident in his own abilities. He ignored the advice not to lead in battle while his father was alive. He cemented the idea that he had usurped the throne.

Aurangzeb then broke his arrangement with Murad Baksh, he had his brother arrested and imprisoned at Gwalior Fort. Aurangzeb executed Murad on 4 December 1661, on the pretext of murder of the diwan of Gujarat sometime earlier.

With Shuja and Murad disposed of, and with his father immured in Agra, Aurangzeb pursued Dara Shikoh, chasing him across the north-western bounds of the empire. After a series defeats and retreats in battle, one of his general betrayed Dara and he was who arrested. In 1658, Aurangzeb arranged his formal coronation in Delhi.

Emperor Aurangzeb Reign

On 10 August 1659, Aurangzeb executed Dara on grounds of apostasy and sent his head to Shahjahan. Having secured his position, he confined his frail father at the Agra Fort but did not mistreat him. Jahanara took care of his father Shah Jahan who died in 1666.

As emperor, he banned the drinking of alcohol, gambling, castration, servitude, eunuchs, music,  nautch and narcotics in the Mughal Empire.

Soon he ordered the Subahdars of these provinces to demolish the schools and the temples of non-Muslims. Aurangzeb also ordered Subahdars to punish Muslims who dressed like non-Muslims.

In 1675, he ordered arrest of the Sikh leader Guru Tegh Bahadur. Qadi’s court  found him guilty of blasphemy and executed him.

He imposed Jizya, a military tax on non-Muslims who were not fighting for Mughal Empire in his second decade on ruling in the year 1679. Further, he levied discriminatory taxes on Hindu merchants at the rate of 5% as against 2.5% on Muslim merchants.

During his reign, Aurangzeb ordered the destruction of many temples and some mosques. For example, he ordered the destruction of Vishvanath Temple at Varanasi for being a centre of conspiracy against the state, and he ordered the destruction of the Jama Masjid at Golkunda after finding out that its ruler had built the mosque in order to hide revenues from the state.

Among the Hindu temples he demolished were three of the most sacred, the Kashi Vishwanath temple, Kesava Deo temple, and Somnath temple, and built large mosques in their place.

Expansion of Empire

In 1659, Shivaji, launched a surprise attack on the Mughal Viceroy Shaista Khan and, while waging war against Mughal Empire. Shivaji and his forces attacked the Deccan, Janjira and Surat and tried to gain control of vast territories.

Emperor Aurangzeb on horseback
Emperor Aurangzeb on horseback

In 1669, the Hindu Jat peasants of Bharatpur around Mathura rebelled. They created Bharatpur state but Mughal Army defeated them.

In 1671, Aurangzeb fought the Battle of Saraighat in the easternmost regions of the Mughal Empire against the Ahom Kingdom. The Ahom defeated the Mughals Army led by Mir Jumla II and Shaista Khan.

In 1672, the Satnami, a sect concentrated in an area near Delhi, under the leadership of Bhirbhan. He took over the administration of Narnaul. However they were eventually crushed upon Aurangzeb’s personal intervention with very few escaping alive.

In 1679, the Rathore clan under the command of Durgadas Rathore rebelled when Emperor didn’t give permission to make the young Rathore prince the king and took direct command of Jodhpur. This incident caused great unrest among the Hindu Rajput rulers under Aurangzeb and led to many rebellions in Rajputana.

Maharaja Chhatrasal was a medieval Indian warrior from Bundela Rajput clan. He fought against the Mughal Emperor. Soon he was able to establish his own kingdom in Bundelkhand, becoming a Maharaja of Panna.

Maratha Mughal War

Mughal fought war with the Maratha Empire from 1680 to 1707. The Deccan Wars started in 1680 with the Mughal emperor’s invasion of the Maratha enclave in Bijapur established by Chatrapati Shivaji.

By 1689, almost all of Southern India was a part of the Mughal Empire and after the conquest of Golconda, Mughal victories in the south expanded the Mughal Empire to 4 million square kilometers, with a population estimated to be over 158 million. But this supremacy was short-lived.

However, his constant warfare, especially with the Marathas, drove his empire to the brink of bankruptcy just as much as the wasteful personal spending and opulence of his predecessors.

Signs of strain were showing in the Mughal camp in late 1701. Asad Khan, Julfikar Khan’s father, counselled Emperor to end the war and turn around. The Maratha-Mughal war took a giant toll on the empire. The war emptied the Royal treasury and it looked possible that 175 years of Mughal rule might crumble.

Death and Legacy

Soon Aurangzeb had now given up all hope and planned a retreat to Burhanpur. Jadhav attacked and defeated his rearguard but Aurangzeb was able to reach his destination with the help of Zulfikar Khan. He died of a fever on 21 February 1707.

After the death of Aurangzeb, the Marathas began an expansion northward. The Mughal empire was split in small kingdoms. Soon the Nizam of Hyderabad, Nawab of Oudh and Nawab of Bengal quick to assert the independence of their lands.

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