Aurangzeb is one of the greats of Indian history, though many have different interpretations about him and his rule. To be frank it is not possible to write everything about this emperor in a short article and god willing I shall write a book on him. The facts speak for themselves. He was the greatest of the Mughal rulers, in the sense he ruled one of the greatest empires in world history. To be precise he ruled from Kabul to South India and from Ladakh to Bengal. It is an area encompassing 3.2 million square miles and is recognized as one of the great empires of world history. It is again a fact of history that he was a devout Muslim and yet many of his generals like Raja Jai Singh were Hindus.

Aurangzeb was the first Indian ruler who conquered Ladakh. He conquered Ladakh in 1663 and the ruler Deldan Namgyal became his vassal and a massive mosque was constructed at Leh. There is much talk of two groups of Hindus, one led by Guru Gobind Singh in Punjab and the other by Shivaji in Western India as having defeated Aurangzeb. Nothing could be further from truth. Both these warriors though immensely brave could not dent the rule of Aurangzeb. It is on record that Raja Jai Singh commanding Mughal forces defeated Shivaji and Shivaji sued for peace and agreed to appear in the imperial Durbar at Agra. He later escaped from his residence and came back to Western India. He had now realized that he could not defeat the Mughal army in a pitched battle and resorted to guerrilla warfare. Shivaji died in 1680, about 27 years before the death of Aurangzeb.( Died 1707). He is given great importance by Hindus, but his nomenclature is " Hindu King in Muslim Ruled India". When Shivaji died, Aurangzeb was all powerful, but he had mellowed down.

Similarly in the North, Guru Gobind led a fight against the Mughals, but he met with very little success. In 1787 the great guru wrote a letter to Aurangzeb called the "Zafarnama". In this letter he admonished Aurangzeb for his cruelty and told him he had deviated from the path of Muhammad. It is reported that the letter caused great anguish to Aurangzeb. It must also be recorded that in 1679, Shivaji also wrote him a letter stating that  the words "Rabb ul Alamin" means Lord of all men and not Lord of Muslamans. It was more of an appeal to treat Hindu subjects properly. This was because militarily Shivaji was only a pinprick in the empire of Aurangzeb.

Aurangzeb outlived Shivaji by 27 years and Guru Gobind later teamed up with the son of Aurangzeb( Bahadur Shah I). though Sikh historians do not lay stress on it. The fact is Aurangzeb was a Shen-e shah( king of kings) and he controlled a third of humanity. The population under him was about 150 million. 

Aurangzeb also faced a rebellion from the Pashtuns in the North West. This rebellion was also crushed and Mughal rule consolidated in NW India. However after the death of Aurangzeb, no leader of stature emerged and in 3 decades the empire collapsed and the Mahratta and Sikhs came to power.. It did not happen during the time of Aurangzeb.

The fact is Aurangzeb was also a great military tactician as is evident from his campaign in Ladakh and capture of Golconda. I shall discuss his military tactics in another post.  But let us give the devil his due. He was a staunch Muslim, but then so many rulers were staunch Muslims, yet he had the maximum number of court officials who were Hindus and many of his most famous generals were also Hindus.

The Hindus do not have very many role models, thus Guru Gobind and Shivaji gave Hindus something to cheer about. I will leave it at that.


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Comments (2)

  1. vijay

With your interest in this area of history pl explore if possible the Hindu Muslim angle then. You have stated that Aurangzeb was a devote Muslim but had large number of high ranking Hindu officials. Similarly I have read that Shivaji had a...

With your interest in this area of history pl explore if possible the Hindu Muslim angle then. You have stated that Aurangzeb was a devote Muslim but had large number of high ranking Hindu officials. Similarly I have read that Shivaji had a Muslim as his army chief. I often wonder whether it was political control or it was Hindu Muslim conflict as is being portaryed today. AN informative artice.

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  1. MG Singh

Thank you Vijay for your comment. basically it was a Hindu- Muslim conflict, with overtones of politics of that period. Aurangzeb and other rulers furthered Muslims philosophy yet many Hindus joined him willingly. It was a case of survival, but...

Thank you Vijay for your comment. basically it was a Hindu- Muslim conflict, with overtones of politics of that period. Aurangzeb and other rulers furthered Muslims philosophy yet many Hindus joined him willingly. It was a case of survival, but as Will Durant the famous historian has pointed out it was a basic Muslim -Hindu conflict.
Shivaji was different. He was a Hindu and a secular person.

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