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South Asian Memories
the-south-asian.com December 2000
Born – 23 Oct 1618
Died – 1707 at the age of 88. Buried at Khuldabad, near Daulatabad. "On his deathbed he acknowledged his mistakes and asked his successors to seek inspiration from the liberal policies of his predecessors, and not from his" [Mughal India, Splendours of the Peacock throne]
Accession to power – In 1658 seized the throne by killing all his brothers and imprisoning his father. Crowned in Shalimar Gardens, 5 miles north of Delhi.Formal coronation in June 1659.
Length of rule in India – Reigned 50 years. 1658 – 1707
Ethnic stock – Hindu Rajput, Shia Muslim, and partially Mughal.
Father – Shahjahan
Mother – Arjumand Bano also known later as Mumtaz Mahal.
Siblings – Three brothers Dara Shukoh, Shah Shuja, and Murad Baksh. Three sisters Jahanara, Roshanara and Gauharara.
Married – Rabia Daurani – her tomb is in Aurangabad,
Children – Eldest son Mohammad Sultan - married King of Golconda’s daughter. Later imprisoned by Aurangzeb – died after 16 years of imprisonment at the age of 37.
2nd son Mohammad Muazzam – arrested on embezzlement charges and imprisoned for 8 years but later succeeded Aurangzeb as Bahadur Shah at the age of 64 in 1707.
3rd son Azam – never imprisoned or exiled.
4th and favourite son Akbar rebelled – together with Shambhuji [son of the Maratha leader Shivaji] – and threatened Aurangzeb in Deccan and later sailed to Persia where he died in 1704.
5th son Kam Bakhsh.
Eldest daughter Zeb-un-nissa, a poet and literary patron, spent the last 21 yrs of her life in Salimgarh, an island prison, for corresponding with her brother Akbar.
Strengths – An astute politician, a talented soldier.
Interests – Builder of mosques. Pearl Mosque in Red Fort, Badshahi mosque in Lahore.
Noted officers - Jai Singh and Mir Jumla distinguished Generals.
Character traits – Master of deceit. Trusted nobody and hence maintained an efficient network of spies. Respected astrology.
As a ruler – . Wanted to "govern a vast empire, composed of a majority of Hindus, confirming to the laws of Islamic asceticism" [Vincent A. Smith, History of India] Vastened the gulf between Hindus and Muslims. Restored Jaziya, the tax on non-Muslims. Razed temples, built mosques on their foundations. Forbade building of new temples, banned music at court, abolished ceremonies, persecuted Sikhs in Punjab [‘India-a country profile’]. Decline of the empire began with Aurangzeb.
Weaknesses – Lacked charisma or dynamism to restore dynasty’s declining fortunes or glory. Reactionary attitude. Alienated Hindu subjects. Re-established Islamic orthodoxy. Corrupt bureaucracy, huge and unwieldy army, outdated weaponry and tactics. Broke with the Rajputs, the old allies. Coffers empty because of numerous campaigns.
Capital city – Delhi in the north and Aurangabad in the south.
Above information is compiled from various sources, prominent among them ‘India – a Country Study’, ‘Delhi’ by Khushwant Singh, ‘The Great Mughals’ by Bamber Gascoigne, ‘The Mughals – Splendours of the Peacock Throne’, and ‘The City of Djinns’
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