Aurangzeb the third son of Princess Arjumand Bano Begam of Persia and Prince Khurram was born on November 4, 1618. His mother was better known as Mumtaz Mahal termed as the ‘Beloved Jewel Of The Palace’ which gave inspiration to Shah Jahan to construct the Taj Mahal later on.
Aurangzeb’s achievements were very remarkable. He was successful in building up a big army and initiated a military expansion program all along the empire’s boundaries. In the south he pushed towards Golconda and Bijapur and in the northwest, towards Afghanistan and Punjab during that time and kept up with the expansion policy.
He also conquered regions in the East. While he kept fighting with his brothers the kings of Assam and Cooch Behar took advantage of this situation and attacked many imperial dominions. But in 1660 Aurangzeb gave out orders after which Mir Jumla occupied Cooch Behar within just a few weeks after marching towards Dhaka. After this they left for Assam. The Ahom kingdom was annexed on March 17, 1662 and the king forcibly had to sign a treaty that was rather humiliating.
Near Bengal’s frontier, he conquered many towns and forts for which he got immense tributes. He also captured East Pakistan an area located on the eastern side of the Brahmaputra River.
In the northwest too he intervened in troubled areas and used diplomacy and force for restoring peace in the area. He transformed Mughal – Afghan relations and along the frontier regions established order and peace.
From the Sikhs, Aurangzeb faced a lot of opposition. In fact they played a vital role in weakening the Mughal Empire later. They were dealt in a ruthless and harsh manner by Aurangzeb even if the relations between Mughals and Sikhs had been friendly before. Aurangzeb put to death the ninth guru Guru Tegh Bahadur and at Anandpur established a strong hold.
Aurangzeb had a bitter struggle with the Marathas. He attained only temporary success with the Marathas and later he was put to death by them. The Mughals faced revolt from Shivaji and Shivaji always happened to be successful. The Mughal Empire experienced a downfall after their struggle with the Marathas. Even if Aurangzeb’s achievements were few, they were indeed remarkable.
Political, Social And Cultural Contributions During Aurangzeb’s Rule
Aurangzeb reigned from 1658 to 1707. He was religiously strict and orthodox, besides being well educated. To achieve power he had fierce appetite and his sense of political realism was truly acute. At the Red Fort a coronation durbar was held by him by the summer of 1659. The title ‘World Conqueror’ or ‘Alamgir’ was assumed by him at the coronation. He took over the throne after his victory and bitter struggle against his three brothers Murad Bakhsh, Shah Shuja and Dara Shikoh and Shah Jahan, his father.
Aurangzeb maintained the court in a way similar to that of his grandfather and father. The Persian New Year, called Nuruz was celebrated by him. Precious stones and gold coins were used to weigh him in public. He appointed chieftains who were Rajputs to the State’s highest offices who worked side by side with Muslims. This practice was put to an end by Aurangzeb later. He felt bothered abut Indian and Hindu influences on the Mughal State and hence he made a decision to bring in Muslim orthodoxy. On the non Muslims he re-imposed the poll tax or the Jizya which Akbar had abolished.
He avoided ostentation, luxury as he was an ascetic. He read didactic poetry and theology as he was devotional by nature. He disliked representational arts and music. Aurangzeb’s name is associated with just a few monuments in Delhi as he was not as passionate about architecture and arts like his father. The 1674 constructed Badshahi or the Imperial mosque adjacent to the Lahore fort is considered the most impressive building built during his reign.
Aurangzeb had a somber but grand image. He ruled for nearly 50 years and died in the year 1707. Even if he was hostile towards arts personally, and he stayed distant from the government in the south, Delhi continued to remain the principal cultural and artistic city of the Mughal Empire.
Extent Of Aurangzeb’s Empire
During his entire reign, Aurangzeb had the only aim of expanding the Mughal Empire boundaries. Annexation of Golconda and Bijapur from the Marathas was one of his most remarkable and impressive achievements. These achievements have had repercussions that were far reaching. From the beginning of Aurangzeb’s reign up to the time he died, he was engaged in the effort of increasing the boundaries of the Mughal Empire towards regions in the east, Bengal frontier and northwest Punjab which is now Afghanistan. To conquer the Deccan and other territories he spent a major part of his life in the battlefield.
Reasons For Decline Of Aurangzeb
During Shah Jahan’s rule the Mughal Empire had nearly reached its zenith. After Aurangzeb, especially in his last days, the empire started experiencing a decline. There are many causes for the downfall of the great Mughal Dynasty which hastened after Aurangzeb.
• Aurangzeb’s Role
A lot of effort was put in by his predecessors for gaining loyalties of the people including Hindus and Rajputs. Aurangzeb did not tolerate non Muslims and was a fanatic. He forbade Hindu festivals and imposed the poll tax due to which he lost loyalty and friendship of the Rajputs. The Marathas and the Sikhs due to the execution of their guru raised arms against Aurangzeb. He was obsessed by the Deccan expedition which destroyed the treasury and army of the Mughals. It was difficult for him to tolerate Shias who turned against him. The people did not like this king and his ways, due to which the empire disintegrated gradually.
• Successors Were Weak
Due to the incompetent and weak successors, the Mughal Empire saw a downfall. They lost control over the states as they spent a lot of time in pleasure and visiting harems.
• Foreign Invaders
Ahmad Shah Abdali and Nadir Shah proved to be fatal invaders for the Mughals. They defeated Indians due to their weaknesses.
• Poor Economic Stability
Constant wars prevailed and the poor economic stability led to the ruining of the Mughal Empire. Not many further additions were made to the Empire but they spent on monuments and buildings lavishly. The economy got shattered by foreign invasions.
• Easy Going Generals And Soldiers
The Mughal army became inefficient, disloyal, pleasure seeking, easy going, corrupt and lazy with excess luxury and wealth. They succumbed to bribing and fought for monetary purposes only. The Marathas, Jats and Sikhs were the new rising powers. They broke away from domination of the Mughals and began establishing their own states.
• Absence Of A Succession Law
No definite law of succession was followed by the Mughals. Amongst the sons of the successors, there were bloody wars to get to the throne. They kept fighting for self interest only.
• Arrival Of Europeans
The British played a big role in ending the Mughal Empire by obtaining the freedom for trading and then resorting to political interference and setting up of the British Empire 2 decades later.