A lot of things have been said about Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, the son of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan and his wife Mumtaz Mahal. This third son of Shah Jahan is infamous for various things, however here we will see things beyond that.
Early Life and Background
Born on 3 November 1618 in Gujarat, Abu’l Muzaffar Muhi-ud-Din Muhammad (later Aurangzeb) was the sixth child of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal. He and his elder brother Dara Shikoh was held as hostages by their grandparents in Lahore court when his father Shah Jahan (then Prince Khurram) rebelled against his own father in June 1626.
2 years later when Shah Jahan became Mughal Emperor on 26 February 1628, he returned to Agra to live with his parents. Here, he received education, both in Arabic and Persian language.
At the age of 15, he nearly escaped death when a war elephant stampeded through the Imperial encampment. He not only rode against the huge elephant, but also struck its trunk with a lance, and could successfully defend himself from being crushed. A proud father Shah Jahan appreciated his courage and valour by conferring him the title of Bahadur (Brave). He even weighed him in gold and presented gifts worth Rs. 200,000.
From Viceroy to Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb
He was first a nominal head of the force that was sent to Bundelkhand and was later made the Viceroy of Deccan. Aurangzeb put an end to Nizam Shahi in 1636. Things were going good until 1644 when his sister got burnt in a chemical accident.
Shah Jahan became furious as Aurangzeb didn’t come immediately but 3 weeks later. This made Shah Jahan angry. He later dismissed Aurangzeb from his position and even banned him from court.
A year later he was made the viceroy of Gujarat. In 1647, he became the governor of Balk replacing his younger brother. He also tried to recapture Kandahar which he failed miserably but the attempt made him once again the Viceroy of Deccan by replacing his elder brother Dara Shikoh. However, he thought that Dara had turned situations in his favour and also had great influence on the father as Shah Jahan preferred him.
Next, when Shah Jahan fell ill and there were rumours that he was on his deathbed, the four brothers started the war of succession as there was no tradition of primogeniture, the systematic passing of rule, upon an emperor’s death, to his eldest son. Aurangzeb was first successful in executing his younger brother Murad Baksh, followed by Shuja and then Dara Shikoh whose head he sent to Shah Jahan whom Aurangzeb had imprisoned.
Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb had 3 wives, 3 important concubines and 10 children – 5 sons and 5 daughters. He married his first wife Dilras Banu Begum (a Safavid princess) in 1637. She was his chief consort of Aurangzeb and give him 5 children – Muhammad Azam Shah (the heir apparent anointed by Aurangzeb), Princess Zeb-un-Nissa (Aurangzeb’s favorite daughter), Princess Zinat-un-Nissa (titled Padshah Begum), and Sultan Muhammad Akbar, the Emperor’s best loved son.
The Bibi Ka Maqbara built by Aurangzeb’s son in Aurangabad was commissioned to act as her final resting place.
His second wife Nawab Bai ji was Hindu by birth. The marriage took place in 1638. She was the mother of Aurangzeb’s eldest son Prince Muhammad Sultan, his second son Prince Muhammad Muazzam (who succeeded his father as Bahadur Shah I) and Princess Badr-un-nissa Begum. Both of her sons misbehaved with Aurangzeb.
His wife Aurangabadi Mahal was the mother of Aurangzeb’s ninth child and youngest daughter Mihr-un-nissa Begum. She died in the plaque that caught Aurangabad in 1688.
Udaipuri Mahal, the mother of the youngest son of Aurangzeb Muhammad Kam Baksh was a concubine and a slave girl. She was earlier the concubine of Dara Shikoh but later became the slave girl of Aurangzeb. She was very young as compared to Aurangzeb. Since, the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb had a special liking towards Udaipuri Mahal, all his other wives were jealous of her. She is believed to a Rajput.
Zainabadi Mahal was another concubine. She was a christian slave who died before Aurangzeb became an emperor. He was deeply infatuated by her. Her death affected him greatly.
He changed a lot of rules that were imposed in Akbar’s reign including taxation and temple policy. Shah Jahan had already changed the liberal rules of Akbar and Aurangzeb went a step further.
He fought several wars with the Marathas and the Sikh and even executed the Sikh leader Guru Tegh Bahadur, Maratha leader Sambhaji, and the 32nd Da’i al-Mutlaq of the Dawoodi Bohra sect of Musta‘lī Islam Syedna Qutubkhan Qutubuddin. Sarmad Kashani, a Sufi mystic was accused of heresy and executed as well.
Death and Legacy of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb
By the year 1689, almost all of South India was under the Mughal Empire. In fact, after the conquest of Golconda, Aurangzeb became the most powerful man alive in the Indian subcontinent. But this supremacy was short-lived as it was the start of the imperial downfall.
Even when Mughal Emperor was ill and dying, he ensured that everybody knew he is fine and alive as he feared another war of succession. He died on 20 February 1707 in Ahmednagar at the age of 88. He outlived many of his children.
Source and Reference:
Eraly, Abraham (2007). The Mughal World: Life in India’s Last Golden Age. Penguin Books India.
Chandra, Satish (2002). Parties and politics at the Mughal Court, 1707-1740. Oxford University
Koch, Ebba (1997). King of the world: the Padshahnama.
Nath, Renuka (1990). Notable Mughal and Hindu women in the 16th and 17th centuries A.D. New Delhi: Inter-India Publ.
“Aurangzeb”. Encyclopædia Britannica.
Eraly, Abraham (2008). The Mughal world: India’s tainted paradise. Weidenfeld & Nicolson.
Sarkar, Sir Jadunath (1973). 1618-1659. Orient Longman.
Irvine, William. The Later Mughals. Low Price Publications.