Aurangzeb, who won the war of succession, ascended the throne in 1658. He killed all his three brothers one by one and imprisoned his father Shahjahan at Agra.
By doing so he proved himself as a man of merciless character. His full name was Muhi-ud-din Muhammad Aurangzeb. He was born on 3rd November, 1618. He ascended the throne in 1658 at the age of just 40 years. He ruled for long 50 years which was up to the end of 1707.
During his long reign, the Mughal empire reached its territorial climax. It stretched from Kashmir in the north to Jinji in the South, and from the Hindu Kush in the west to Chittagong in the east.
Aurangzeb was a man of extraordinary ability, strict discipline and a hard working. He was remarkable on many respects. He possessed extraordinary personal qualities. He led a very simple life and maintained high moral standard. He was far from pleasures, vices and extravagance. He was so puritan that he abolished music from the court and dismissed the singers and musicians.
As he was a hardworking ruler, he devoted himself whole heartedly to the affairs of the state. He remained dutiful till the end of his reign. He was a strict disciplinarian who did not spare his own sons. He was deeply religious. He was an orthodox and God-fearing Muslim. Even in the thick of the battle, he could kneel down to pray when the time for prayer came. Thus he was regarded by many Muslims as a zinda pir or a unity saint.
With all these personal qualities, Aurangzeb become a great failure as a ruler. According to some historians, he reversed Akbar’s policy of religious toleration and thus undermined the loyalty of the Hindus to the empire. As a result, this led to popular uprisings which suppressed the vitality of the empire.
His suspicious nature added to his problems so that in the words of Khafi Khan, “all his enterprises were long drawn out” and ended in failure. However, his orthodox nature, unjust and harsh measures on Hindus, annoyance of Sikhs, Rajput’s and Marathas and Deccan ulcer in fact ruined him and the Mughal empire.
Aurangzeb was an orthodox Sunni Muslim who did not have any faith on the other religions except his own. To him, his own religion was the only true religion. In this respect, he was just the opposite of his great grandfather Akbar. Akbar had taken liberal stand in the matters of religion as a result he had obtained the support of the Hindus. Jahangir and Shahjahan also maintained the policy of Akbar.
As a result the Mughal empire completed a century without much trouble. But Aurangzeb abandoned the wisdom of Akbar and instead of it he followed a rigid Islamic policy which annoyed the Hindus who constituted the main bulk of the society. This signaled a danger to the empire. He imposed restrictions on religious practices of other communities. The Hindus for example, could not attend their religious festivals freely.
Festivals like Deepavali were prohibited in the cities. The Hindus could not get official appointment as before as he gave appointment not on merit but on religious considerations. The Rajput’s who used to enjoy higher posts were deprived of their post and honour.
He discontinued the popular system, the Jharoka Darshana which shattered the faith of the Hindus on the emperor. He also abolished the use of kalama or the Muslim confession of faith on the coins so that men of other faiths should not touch it. Officers called muhtasibs were appointed to regulate the lines of the people in strict accordance with the Holy law.
Further he committed the blunder by reimposing Zaziya on Hindus. By its revival, Aurangzeb lost the loyalty of the Hindus. He restricted people to be in possession of arms, horse elephant and palaquin. Thus by taking rigid religious measures Aurangzeb invited troubles for himself and paved the way for the decline of the Mughal Empire. The Gokla, Raja Ram and Churaman revolted against him. Then the Hindus of Bundekhand and Malwa took up arms under their leader Chhatrasal Bundela. He defeated the Mughal soldiers repeatedly. He created an independent territory for himself.
Aurangzeb could not suppress him in his life time. Even peaceful people like the Satanamis of Patiala and Alwar took up arms against Aurangzeb for his strong measures. Though they were mercilessly killed and put down by the Mughal army, yet their discontent did not die out. Matter did not end and Aurangzeb for his anti-Hindu religious measures had to face the formidable sections of the Hindu society such as the Rajput’s, the Marathas and the Sikhs.
Rise of the Sikh Power:
Aurangzeb’s religious measures forced the Sikhs, a peaceful religious community to take up arms against him. Guru Nanak Dev was the founder of the Sikh faith. He preached the unity of all religions and the brotherhood of all men. One of his successors named Guru Ram Das was a Contemporary of the emperor, Akbar.
Akbar showed him deep respect and granted him lands in Amritsar for religious purposes. It was emperor Jahangir who disrespected the Sikhs by executing Guru Arjun Dev for an insignificant reason. When Jahangir’s eldest son prince Khusrau revolted against his father and fled towards Punjab, Guru Arjun Singh gave him some money as an act of charity in his distress without having any political motives. But he was accused of treason against the emperor and was executed.
Since this incident relationship between the Mughals and Sikhs had never been cordial. Guru Har Gobind who succeeded Guru Arjun considered Mughals as their enemies. He asked the Sikhs to get themselves trained in arts of warfare in order to resist the attacks on their faith in future.
Gradually Sikhs turned into militant force. Their hostility with the Mughals became bitter during the reign of Aurangzeb. Guru Teg Bahadur, the ninth Guru of Sikhs, raised his voice against some unjust works of the emperor Aurangzeb. He even encouraged the Kashmiri Brahman’s to resist the autocracy of the Mughals. Aurangzeb was not the man to tolerate such activities of the Guru. He gave orders to capture the Guru.
Guru Teg Bahadur was brought to Delhi. Aurangzeb asked him to embrace Islam or give his head. The Guru preferred to give his head but not his faith. Teg Bahadur was beheaded in 1675. The Sikh unity of tolerance reached at its highest point. The Sikhs under their tenth Guru Gobind Singh formed a fighting force called Khalsa or the pure.
The members of the Khalsa were to put on a distinctive dress and to keep on their person five things beginning with K—Kes (hair), Kirpan (sword), Kachha (underwear), Kangha (comb) and Kada (iron bangle). Every Sikh took a common surname Singh to proclaim the unity of the community. They were further to give up all caste distinctions and all restrictions about food and drink.
A new initiation into the Khalsa was prescribed and its members were made to believe that they were a chosen people. Guru Gobinda’s Sikhism thus became a veritable counterblast to Aurangzeb’s Islam and under his command the Khalsa pursued the policy of fighting fanaticism with fanaticism. He fought with the Mughals throughout his life. He was the tenth and the last Guru of the Sikhs.
A little before his death he had abolished guru ship and instructed his followers to turn the Sikhs into a military democracy. “I shall always be present wherever five Sikhs are assembled”, he said. The Sikhs by the time of his death were a powerful, rebellious community vowed to end the Mughal tyranny.
His Rajput Policy:
It is a fact that the Mughal empire existed for a long time due to Akbar’s sound Rajput policy. The Rajput’s were the bravest of the Indian people in medieval times. Akbar made friendship with them as a mark of foresighted statesmanship. The Mughal empire reached its territorial zenith due to the support of the Rajput’s. Even during the time of Jahangir and Shahjahan, the Rajput’s remained as the friends of the Mughals. But Aurangzeb just did the opposite. He suspected the Rajput’s and destroyed their independence.
He attached the state of Marwar first whose king Raja Jaswant Singh was loyal to the Mughal empire and just died in the Frontier while on duty in 1678. Aurangzeb wanted to occupy the kingdom of the dead Raja by capturing his infant son Ajit Singh with his mother. This enraged the Rathors of Marwar who rescued the queen and the child from the hands the Mughals with typical Rajput valour.
They took up arms against Aurangzeb under their brave leader Durgadas to uphold their independence. In the mean while, the Rana of Mewar, Raj Singh took up arms against the Mughals protesting the religious policy of Aurangzeb and the reimposition of the hated ziziya. Thus began the Rajput war against Aurangzeb.
While the war was in progress, the Marathas in the Deccan created problems for the Mughal emperor. Leaving a hostel Rajputana behind, Aurangzeb marched to South to suppress the Marathas. Little did he know that the Deccan would prove a death trap for him. The Rajput’s on the other hand continued their struggle against the emperor.
They cleverly won over his son prince Akbar towards their side and promised to stand solidly behind him to become the new emperor. Prince Akbar was a liberal like the great Akbar and Rajput’s found solace in his hand. When the emperor Aurangzeb came to know this he became very much apprehensive of the danger to his life and the throne.
He immediately resorted to diplomacy and befooled the Rajput’s and his son. He wrote a false better to Akbar which was secretly dropped at the Rajput camp. Going through the letter, the Rajput’s suspected that the prince was playing a treacherous game. They came to know that the prince will betray them in the battle field and would support his Mughal army to get us captured. So, in the night before the battle, the Rajput’s deserted the prince and fled.
When the prince got up in the morning, he did not find a single Rajput soldier with him. He fled for his life. The Rajput hero Durgadas soon realized the trick of Aurangzeb. But it was too late to get united again against Aurangzeb. He therefore took the prince to the court of Marathas for his safety. Aurangzeb decided to march to Deccan to capture the rebel prince and to punish his enemy in the Deccan. Thus began the Deccan campaign of Aurangzeb.
The Deccan Policy of Aurangzeb:
Right from the time of Akbar, the Mughal emperors were following the Deccan policy traditionally. Aurangzeb followed this policy as a matter of legacy. During the time of Aurangzeb the Deccan situation was completely different due to the rise of Marathas under the brave leadership of Shivaji. He was Aurangzeb’s worst enemy. He had defeated the Mughals on a number of accessions.
Shivaji created an independent Maratha state in the south. As long as Shivaji was alive, Aurangzeb did not proceed to fight against him. But when Shivaji died in 1680, the emperor felt relaxed. Shambhuji, the son of Shivaji, was not so capable like his father. Now Aurangzeb was inspired enough to attack and destroy Shambhuji at the earliest.
Aurangzeb had the mission to capture his rebel prince Akbar, who fled from Rajputana to Deccan. He had taken shelter in the Maratha Court. As Aurangzeb being an orthodox Sunni was always hostile to the Shia Muslim rulers of Bijapur and Golkunda. His mission of annexing those two states in the Mughal empire had remained incomplete since the time of his father. With these missions, Aurangzeb began his Deccan Complain. Little did he know that the Deccan would prove a death trap for him.
The Deccan Campaign:
In the Deccan Aurangzeb’s first work was to capture his rebel son prince Akbar. But he could not capture him as the unfortunate prince apprehending danger to his life had escaped to Persia. Aurangzeb’s next move was against the Sultan of Bijapur. He invaded Bijapur and after a grim struggle the Adil Shahi Sultan surrendered. Bijapur was annexed to the Mughal empire in 1686. The very next year in 1687, Aurangzeb invaded Golkunda. The State of Golkunda was ruled by the Qutb Shahi Dynasty.
Its ruler gave stiff opposition to the Mughal force. The Fort of Golkunda proved too strong to be conquered. The Mughals suffered heavy losses. When Aurangzeb could not achieve success by arms, he resorted to diplomacy and bribed the enemy generals. As a result the Mughal army could enter into the Fort and defeated its ruler. The Kutb Shahi dynasty came to an end.
After conquering Bijapur and Golkunda, Aurangzeb next turned towards the Marathas. The Maratha king Shambhuji fought bravely but he was defeated and killed in 1689. His younger son Shahaji was taken as prisoner and kept in the Mughal Camp. After defeating and finishing all his enemies in the Deccan, Aurangzeb felt that his essential work was over. He was undisputed and unchallenged monarch in India.
The war in the Deccan had come to an end. But it was in fact his wrong notion. The real misfortune awaited him. It has been rightly said that, “All seemed to have gained by Aurangzeb now, but in reality all was lost. It was not the end of his war but the beginning of his end. The saddest and most hopeless chapter of his life was now opened. The Deccan problem was going to ruin Aurangzeb.”
With the death of Shambhuji, the Maratha war did not come to an end. Rather the real war started after it. The Marathas very soon took up arms as a nation and it turned into a people’s war. Every Maratha leader rose as a fighter and every family supplied soldiers. They turned into a violent people’s movement.
They resorted to guerrilla warfare attached the Mughals every day and night hiding in the hills and mountains. Further the Forts of Maharashtra gave them military advantage. It became difficult for the Mughal army to capture those strong holds. The Maratha people made Raja Ram, the second son of Shivaji symbolic head of their national struggle. Queen Tara Bai subsequently gave leadership and inspiration to them.
Further as the Mughals were the common enemy the state of Bijapur and Golkunda joined hands with the Marathas. However, the Maratha war became an unending national war. Like Hannibal in ancient Italy, Aurangzeb marched through the Deccan from place to place, year after year. The Marathas caused untold harm to his troops. They attacked the Mughals from every direction.
Aurangzeb could not return to Delhi without suppressing them. From 1690 to 1707, it was a military operation of long seventeen years. After that the Marathas won victories, while the old emperor hastened towards his grave in the same Deccan. Like the Spanish ulcer that ruined Napoleon, Aurangzeb was ruined by the Deccan war.
Amidst such conditions that Aurangzeb met his end. He realised his mistakes but it was too late. In great despair, he wrote to one of his sons, “I came alone and am going alone. I have not done well to the country and the people, and in the future there is no hope.” He died at the age of ninety in 1707 in the same Deccan.
Medieval economy and Institutions:
The Turks and the Afghans ruled over India for more than three centuries. The Turks during the first half of the fifteenth century ruled over India and they were replaced by the Afghans during the second half of the fifteenth century. Then Mughals captured power from the Afghans during the sixteenth century.
The Muslim state in India was a theocracy. The Sulan acted as an all powerful despot. According Dr. Iswari Prasad, “He is the shadow of God upon earth to whose refuge we are to fly when oppressed by injury from the unforeseen occurrence of life”. The Sultan was the head of the State and all the legislative, executive and judicial power were concentrated in his person.
All the ministers, nobles and officers were appointed and dismissed by him. His order was the law. The nobility wielded much influence when the sultan was weak. However in such a state, the priestly class had a powerful voice. The Ulemas, influenced the policy of the sultan. Only Allauddin Khilji and Mubarak Khilji didn’t allow the Ulemas to interfere in the state affairs.
In the work of administration the Sultan was assisted by several ministers and high officials. The highest office of the state was Vazir. The duty of Vazir was to administer the finance department but in practice he looked after the entire administration and supervised all other departments in case the sultan fell ill or was out of the capital.
Ariz-i-mumalik was the chief of the military department. He looked after the recruitment, discipline and supplies to the soldiers. The Dabir-i-Khas was in charge of official correspondence of the state. The Diwan-i-Rasalat looked after the foreign affairs. The Sadr-us-Sadr was in charge of religious and charity department. The Qazi-ul-Quazt was the chief of justice and the Barid-i-mumalik was the head of the intelligence and postal department. The Turkish system of government was feudal and military in character.
During the Mughal period, the emperor was assisted by a Council of Ministers.
The Ministers were:
(1) Vakil or Prime Minister
(2) Diwan or Finance Minister
(3) Pay Master General or Mir Bakshi
(4) Chief Sadr.
The Vakil or Prime Minister had considerable power and authority. The Diwan was in charge of the revenue and expenditure of the empire. Mir Bakshi was in charge of the military affairs. His duty was to maintain the records regarding the names, ranks and salaries of the mansabdars.
The Chief Sadar acted as the Chief Justice and rendered advice to the king on religious matters and distributed charities. Mughal empire was divided into a number of Provinces for the convenience of administration. Sipah Salar or Subedar acted as the provincial governor. He was assisted by a number of officers. Again each province was divided into a number of administrative units called Sarkars.
The faujdar was the head of the Sarkar. Each Sarkar was divided into a number of Parganas which constituted the lowest unit of fiscal and civil administration. The Shiqdar was the head of the Pargana. An excellent system of administration was introduced during the Mughal rule.
The foreign Muslims constituted the ruling class. The foreign Muslims like the Persians, the Afghans, the Arabs, the Turks, the Abyssinians etc. were the most privileged section of the society. All the higher posts of the state were kept reserved for them. They yielded great influence in society and administration. The state always accorded a preferential treatment to them. The Turks maintained their superiority till the coming of the Khiljis. During the rule of the Khiljis, different sections of foreign Muslims came at par with one another.
The other section consisted of Indian Muslims who were converted to Islam from Hinduism. They were not given equal status with foreign Muslims. They were regarded inferior to foreign Muslims. The Muslims were divided on the basis of differences of different sects within Islam, viz. the Sunnis, the Shias, the Bohras, the Khojas etc. The Sunnis and Shias were most prominent among them.
The Hindus constituted the majority of the Indian society. The Hindus were divided into four castes traditionally, but in actual practice they were sub-divided into different sub-castes. The caste system was very rigid and there were strict restrictions on inter caste living. They had to pay higher taxes as compared to the Muslims.
The advent of Islam brought profound changes in the religious outlook of the people. In India Brahmanism, Buddhism, Jainism, Vaisnavism, Shaivism and various tantrik sect etc. existed in different forms. But the Muslims introduced a new thought into Hindu society by laying stress on the unity of God. Due to the close contact between the Hindus and Muslims two religious movements developed namely Sufism among the Muslims and Bhakti movement among the Hindus. The philosophy of Sufism believes in one God and believes every individual and everything else as part of him.
The Sufi saints led a simple life and believed in renunciation of all worldly possessions and pleasures. They denounced image worship. The Sufi saints advised the people to give up desire because they regarded it as the primary enemy of human being. A Sufi realizes God by meditation, contemplation, music, dance and annihilation of self.
The Sufis believed in guru or pir without whom none can approach God. The Sufis were divided into different sets; most important among them were Suhravardi sect and the Chists sect. The Sufi saints like Muinuddin Chisti of Ajmer and Nizamuddin Auliya of Delhi preached liberal ideas, free thought, religious toleration and universal brotherhood.
Like Sufi movement, Bhakti movement was a movement within Hinduism. During the medieval peri the Hindu saints emphasized Bhakti as a means to attain salvation and that resulted in Bhakti movement. Impressed by the simplicity of the Muslim creed and its emphasis on the oneness of God, the Bhakti saints denounced idolatry and caste system.
The Bhakti saints believed in one God who could be called by different names such as Rama, Krishna, Shiva or Allah. The first great exponent of Bhakti Movement was Ramanuja. He preached the worship of Vishnu in Southern India. The leaders of Bhakti movement were Ramanada, Kabir, Nanak and Sri Chaitanya. They taught fundamental equality of all religions and laid emphasis on Bhakti or true devotion to God.
The religious teachers made sincere attempt to bridge the gulf between Hindus and Muslims and also rendered a great service to the cause of unity. As a result of Bhakti movement, the Hindus began to worship Muslim saints and the Muslims also showed respect to the Hindu gods. This mutual goodwill resulted in the cult of Satyapir, founded by Husain Shah of Jaunpur. It represents a synthesis of the two religions.
During the Sultanate period, the state didn’t adopt any sound economic policy for the improvement of the general condition of the people. Of course, the Khiljis and Tughlaqs made few novel experiments, but they didn’t produce any permanent results. Though agriculture was the principal occupation of the majority of the people, there were some important industries like textile, metal, stone, paper, sugar industries etc. in the urban as well as rural areas of the country. The Sultan collected chiefly five taxes.
These taxes were:
(i) Ushr, which was 5% to 10% of the produce;
(ii) Kharaj, which was collected from non-Muslims and was from 1/3 to 1/2 of the produce;
(iii) Khams which was 1/5 of the pluadered property of war;
(iv) Zakat which was realised from rich Muslims as a religious tax and was 2.5 of their income;
(v) Zizya which was religious tax imposed on the Hindus. Besides these taxes, the state derived its income from custom, excise duties, mines and from presents offered to the Sultan by the people, nobles and provincial governors.
Land revenue was the principal source of income. The peasants normally paid 1/3 of the produce to the state as land revenue. But Alauddin collected 1/2 of the produce from certain territories. The land revenue was assessed on the basis of proper measurement of the land. They also abolished all the privileges of hereditary officers of villages like Chaudhuris, Kliuts, Muqaddams etc. and compelled them to pay the land, house and grazing taxes.
Sultan Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq liberalized the revenue policy and administration and decided in the interest of peasants that in no case the land revenue be enhanced more than 1/11 to 1/10 in the iqta in one year. He exempted the khuts, Muquddams and chaudhuris from the payment of taxes on their lands Firuz Tughluq paid greater attention to the revenue affairs of the state.
He made a rough assessment of the entire land revenue on that basis for the whole period of his reign. Following the Quranic law he levied only six taxes such as Kharaj Ushr, Khans, Zizya, Zakat and the irrigation tax. He freed the peasants from taqavi loans, and enhanced the salaries of the revenue officers. Sikandar Lodi tried to fix the revenue on the basis of measurement of land but he failed.
The revenue system during the period of Delhi Sultanate was not free from defects.
Firstly, the land revenue was assessed without the proper measurement of land.
Secondly, the revenue was collected by the contractors who tried to exact as much as possible from the peasants. As a result the condition of the peasants because miserable.
Thirdly, besides land revenue, there were other taxes which the peasants had to pay. These were extra burden on the peasants.
During the medieval period Akbar was the first Mughal emperor who established a sound revenue system. In 1580, with the help of Raja Todar Mai he introduced the Dahsala system. Under this dahsala system, the land was measured by bamboos which were joined together by iron rings. The lands were divided into four categories, i.e., the Polaj land which was cultivated every year ; the Paranti land which was sometimes left uncultivated for a year or two ; the Chachar land which was left uncultivated for three or four years ; and the Banjar land which was left uncultivated for five years or more.
The state demand was one-third of the average produce of the land. Under this system the cultivators became the owners of their lands and the state kept direct contact with them. However, the Dahsala system was not introduced in the entire empire. The general condition of the peasants was good. They were prosperous and happy. The revenue system of Akbar led to increased production that helped in the growth of trade and industry.
There was extensive industrial activity of the people. The most important industry was the manufacture of cotton. Cloth was exported from India to the countries east of the cape of Good Hope, Middle East, Burma, Malaysia and Java etc. Under the royal patronage, the silk industry also received a great impetus. The prices of articles mainly those of common consumption like rice, vegetables, spices, meat, and milk were very low.
During the Mughal rule, India carried on her foreign trade with different countries of Asia and Europe. The chief imports of India were raw-silk, horses, metals, ivory, coral, precious stones, drugs, Chinese porcelain and the exports were various textiles, pepper, indigo, opium and other drugs.
However, the court revolution, conspiracies perpetual wars of Aurangzeb and frequent occurrence of famines led to the economic deterioration and as a result agriculture, art and craft were so badly affected that for some time trade came to a standstill. People were reduced to a state of misery.
Rise of Maratha Power—Shivaji:
The Maratha country lies in the midst of natural barriers due to which there developed certain peculiar physical and moral qualities, which distinguish Marathas from the rest of the countrymen. Larger part of Maharashtra is plateau and that plateau provided facilities for defence including the construction of hill forts.
The hill forts have played an important part in Maratha history because with their help the Marathas have successfully defied the invaders from the north. The Marathas also adopted guerilla warfare which baffled their enemies. They led simple life and did not suffer much from economic disparities. As there was no clear cut division of the society into the rich and the poor so they enjoyed economic equality to a great extent. It enhanced their self-respect and unity.
In the 15th and 16th centuries, there was a great religious awakening in Maharashtra. Saints who laid stress on Bhakti cult also preached social equality. The famous saints like Tukaram, Ram Das, Vaman Pandit and Ek Nath preached against the supremacy of Brahmans, rituals, caste system and discrimination between low-born and high born. This Bhakti movement united and strengthened the Maratha society. Marathi language also played a vital role in strengthening the bonds of equality and unity among the people of Maharashtra.
Furthermore, the existence of balance of power between the Hindus and Muslims in the South also helped the Marathas in achieving political power. The Muslims, although had broken the power of resistance of the Hindus in Northern India, but they could never achieve that success in the South and it enabled the Hindus to safeguard their self-respect, temples, and social traditions. The Muslim rulers of the South had taken the help of the Hindus in their administration.
Prior to the rise of Sivaji, there were at least eight Maratha families who wielded extensive influence in the polities of Deccan. Moreover, the attempt of Aurangzeb to conquer the entire Deccan which provoked the resistance of the Marathas for the safety of their motherland and the inclusion of all sections of the people of Maharashtra in Maratha army also helped in the rise of Maratha power. Thus several conditions existed on the political horizon of the South and Sivaji had exploited these conditions and successfully established an independent kingdom of his own.