Aurangzeb Alamgir


Aurangzeb Alamgir was one of the greatest rulers in the history of India. His empire covered almost the whole of the subcontinent, and he restored vigour to the Muslim faith. Although he tried his best to preserve it, the Mughal Empire had unfortunately reached its decline. Some historians think that Aurangzeb Alamgir policies helped to undermine the empire. Others believe that it was already on the verge of collapse and that he successfully managed to keep it together for more than half a century.(


Prince Aurangzeb became Emperor in 1658. Aurangzeb means “Jewel in the throne”. He was crowned as Alamgir I. The seizer of the Universe at a Mughal ceremony which was more splendid than any that had gone before. It was held at Agra on a day which the royal astrologers said was very lucky. There were two months of festivities before the day of enthronement.

The preparations featured musicians and dancers, and a huge display of fireworks on the River Yamuna. Aurangzeb Alamgir was to rule for almost fifty years years and under his rule in the Mughal Empire became the largest there had ever been in the subcontinent.

Aurangzeb Alamgir was highly intelligent and a good scholar. He knew Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and Hindi. Like other Mughal Princes he was trained in calligraphy and became an expert in the art. At an early age he memorized the Holy Quran and the Hadith. He copied out the Quran several times and gave the copies as presents to mosques in the subcontinent, Makkah, and Madina. Aurangzeb Alamgir was a fearless warrior and personally led his army until he was over eighty years old.


Aurangzeb Alamgir’s armies first drove out the Assamese who had invaded Bengal, and, though they never completely conquered Assam itself, the king had to accept Aurangzeb Alamgir as his overlord and give large amounts of treasure. The port of Chittagong was seized, and the estuary cleared of the Portuguese funded local pirates who had made the area very dangerous for merchants. Ports on the Ganges estuary developed rapidly, and Bengal became very prosperous with French, British, Danish as well as Indian trading posts.


These rebellions were more serious. At first the Afghans raided east of the Indus before they were driven back. Then the tribes inflicted a heavy defeat on the Mughal troops, and it was not until Aurangzeb Alamgir himself went to take charge of the campaign in 1674 that they were successful. By the defeating the enemy in battle and through the use of clever diplomacy, the emperor achieved a peace which lasted throughout his reign.

The Sikhs were responsible for even more serious uprising. A Sikh guru who had fought in the Mughal Army was determined to set up his own state. Aurangzeb Alamgir forces eventually defeated him, and he was brought as prisoner to Agra, where he was given opportunity to convert to Islam. He refused and was executed. His successors, Guru Govind Sing, established a Sikh kingdom in the Punjab hills and gave the Sikh their distinctive appearance: uncut hair, the steel bangle, and the sword. Under him, the Sikh military strength grew to such an extent that they were not defeated until 1695. Even then, Govind was treated fairly and became very friendly with Aurangzeb Alamgir successor.


The Rajputs had been reasonably friendly with the earlier Mughal rulers, supplying excellent troops and officers for the Muslim armies. Aurangzeb Alamgir attacked and seized Mewar (1681) but, despite his attempts, Marwar was not captured until 1709. The quarrel with the Rajputs was perhaps a major mistake on the part of Aurangzeb, for he no longer had the of troops that he required for the long-drawn out wars in the Deccan.


In 1681 Aurangzeb Alamgir moved to the South where the main campaigns of his reign were taking place. Unfortunately, he never returned to Agra. In 1686 and 1687 he captured the Muslim states of Bijapur and Golconda, but his main battles were with the Hindu Marathas, at first under their general and King Shivaji, and later against his weaker son. The Marathas occupied the Ghats and were fierce fighters.

Their huge fortresses in the remote mountains were very difficult to capture, and from these bases the Marathas sent out raiding expeditions for food and supplies. Shivaji angered Aurangzeb Alamgir by twice raiding and destroying the Muslim port of Surat. Eventually, however, he surrendered to the emperor’s forces. Taken to Agra, he was not treated with the respect he felt he ought to have been given and managed to escape back to the mountains. There he was crowned king and continued the long and bitter war.

The Muslim armies won the pitched battles because of their superior strength but often lost what they had gained in the guerilla raids at night for which the Marathas were famous. Often when a great Maratha fortress was captured by Aurangzeb Alamgir with great loss of life, and the Muslims moved on to attack the next, the Marathas reoccupied the previous one.

These wars, conducted by Aurangzeb Alamgir in person, were extremely expensive in terms of money and men. The treasury in the north was emptying rapidly, and the soldiers, especially the officers, were of poorer quality as gradually all the best ones were killed during the war. Although the Marathas were contained, they were never defeated and did much to bring about the end of the Mughal empire. Aurangzeb Alamgir pushed on to conquer almost the whole of southern India. This period marked the peak of the Mughal Empire.


Since the reign of the Emperor Akbar (1556 to 1605) the Rajput princes of Rajasthan had been accepted at court and given positions of honour. Now Aurangzeb Alamgir treatment angered them and they rebelled. Prince Akbar, Aurangzeb Alamgir fourth and favourite son, agreed to support the Rajputs in overthrowing his father. In 1681 Prince Akbar declared himself Emperor, but Aurangzeb Alamgir army attacked and defeated him.

Now Prince Akbar had to flee to the Deccan where he joined a group called the Marathas, which was rising to power at that time. Later Prince Akbar was forced into exile in Persia. Later in 1681 the Marathas became so troublesome that Aurangzeb Alamgir moved to the Deccan to fight them and the Shi’te Muslim princes whom he accused of helping him. Because of the Marathas, Aurangzeb Alamgir was to spend more than twenty years in the South of India. He never returned to Delhi.


In the 16th Century the valleys of Swat and Bajur were conquered by the Pathans. Although Emperor Jahangir and Shah Jahan had had little trouble with he pathans, in 1667 they rebelled and took the towns of Attock and Peshawar. Aurangzeb Alamgir defeated them in 1674 after fierce fighting, but his army was weakened by the loss of many soldiers. In 1672 Aurangzeb Alamgir also put down rebellions by:

  • The Satnamis in Mewar, a sect of fanatical Hindu “holy men”.
  • The Jats in Gopal.

The Sikh religion had started in the Punjab in the 16th century, with its focus at the “Golden Temple” at Amritsar. By the time of Aurangzeb the Sikh had their ninth Guru, Tegh bahadur. Sikh also rebelled against the new rules but the Sikh religion was attracting Muslim converts. In 1675 Aurangzeb Alamgir ordered the Guru to come to the court. When the guru refused to convert to Islam he was tortured and beheaded.

Now the Sikhs became angry. In 1699 their Guru leader, Gobind Singh, formed and armed group of well-trained Sikhs, called the Kalsa. Within a few days it had 80,000 members. The Kalsa fought battles with local chiefs until one of Aurangzeb Alamgir son defeated them. But he Sikhs continued to oppose the Mughals.


During the time of Jahangir, Sir Thomas Roe had been given concessions for British to trade and build factories at Masulipatam, Hooghly, and Qasim Bazar. In 1668 charless II got the Island of Bombay as his queen’s dowry and gave it to the British East India Company. In Bengal, the British trade grew tremendously as they exported goods worth hundreds of thousands pounds.

In Aurangzeb Alamgir’s time, the British had started to fortify their possessions and When shaista Khan, the governor of Bengal, imposed local duties on British trade, they company defied Mughal Authority. James I sent his warships to the Indian Ocean in order to capture Chittagong. This aroused Aurangzeb Alamgir anger and he ordered the taking over of the britsh factories at Surat in Gujrat, Masulipatam in the South, and on the Hooghly in Bengal.

The British were asked to vacate these in 1688. Peace was restored when Aurangzeb Alamgir pardoned the British, who were able to return in 1690 to Hooghly after payment of compensation to the Mughal government. In 1691 Job Charnock, the British representative, laid the foundations of Fort William, which later became the city of Calcutta.


Just as a need to revive Islam was felt among the Sufis and learned men among the Muslims, the Hindus were also thinking innovatively about their religion. Little noticed at this time was a trend among the Hindu population towards a move away from the caste system, with a belief in the equality of men and devotion to God.

This gave rise to the Sikhs in the Punjab and the spread of Kabir’s Bhakti Movement, which spreading from Maharashtra to Bengal and the banks of the Yamuna also contributed tot he development of the modern languages of Marathi and Bengali. The movement acted as a unifying factor influencing the hopes of the Maratha peoples in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. However, despite their mystic origins, these movements later turned militant and defied Mughal Authority, resulting in Maratha and Sikh revolts.


In the wake of this movement, Shivaji, a Maratha leader influenced by Bhaktism, was determined to revive Hinduism. He began his career as a robber chief, operating daringly in the Upper Deccan. Using guerrilla tactics, Maharashtra and also some from the Bijapur territory. This brought him into conflict with the Mughals under Aurangzeb Alamgir, who defeated him by sending a force led by his uncle, Shaista Khan. Poona was captured and the the northern part of Konkan was taken over by the Mughals.

Shivaji was left with the Southern Konkan but managed to trick Shaista Khan and get his territory back. It can be said that Shivaji and his Marathas posed the first challenge to Aurangzeb Alamgir rule and eventually were a cause of the empire’s decline.


After Shivaji’s death, Sambhaji carried on the opposition against the Mughal. The Marathas were well acquainted with he hilly, forested terrain, they used guerrilla warfare and were extremely quick on their horses whereas the Mughal army was huge and moved slowly, and could not effectively counter the lighting attacks of the Maratha horseman.

Shivaji had made the Marathas into as strong nation which his successors were no able to continue, the Marathas eventually split into different groups under their own Chiefs. It turned into a Maratha confederacy with five chiefs under the rule of the Peshwa whose capital was at Poona.

In 1687 Aurangzeb Alamgir had decided to lead his army in person to the south against the Marathas and others. He made his temporary capital at Aurangabad and remained in the Deccan till his death in 1707, at the age of ninety.

The Deccan campaigns against the Marathas resulted in the loss of prestige of the Mughal Army and weakened the emperors position; his prolonged absence from the north weakened the administration of the empire and made the Jats and Sikhs stronger, beside encouraging rebellions by his own people. The treasury of the Mughals was emptied and the cross of rupees wasted on this war were never recovered.


Most would agree that Aurangzeb Alamgir was incredibly brave, a fine general, a good administrator, and a generous ruler. He was also extremely devout and lived a simple, pure life, unlike many of his nobles. Aurangzeb Alamgir inherited a court which, for over fifty years, had been the centreof wealth and luxury.

Many nobles had forgotten Islamic Principles in their search for pleasure and no longer wished to participate in the often harsh military campaigns. Aurangzeb Alamgir decided that the state must return tot he more traditional, religious way of life.


There are following financial reforms by Aurangzeb Alamgir:

  • Aurangzeb Alamgir abolished transport duties (10 percent of the value of the goods) and the tax on goods brought into cities for sale. This pleased everyone but was later to have a serious effect on the income of the state.
  • Aurangzeb Alamgir abolished taxes which had been levied for centuries because they did not accord with Islamic Law/
  • Aurangzeb Alamgir reimposed the Jizya tax on the Hindus, although it had not been collected for over a century. He did this primarily because the disloyal Hindu and Rajputs and Marathas had rebelled against him.
  • Hindus who already paid land tax or who were officers or soldiers did not have to pay Jizya tax. Even though the actual sum was very little, the Hindus were angry at having to pay.
  • Custom duties were reimposed in 1665 at 5 percent for Hindus and 2.5 percent for Muslims. Many Hindus converted to Islam because of this.


Unlike the earlier Mughal Emperors, Aurangzeb Alamgir was a devout Sunni Muslim. As his rule continued, he began to live simply and did not eat, drink, or dress in a way that he believed was against Islam. He did not take opium or drink alcohol. Life at court changed as Aurangzeb Alamgir became more religious.

  • He stopped wearing silk clothes and made his courtiers follow his example.
  • In 1665 he shut down the painting workshop at court and plastered over the wall painting in his palaces.
  • Aurangzeb Alamgir Islamic Laws against alcohol and gambling and forbade the planting of cannabis (a type of drug).
  • Aurangzeb Alamgir appointed officials in all the major cities. They were responsible for overseeing the implementation of the laws and the behaviour of the people.
  • In 1668 Aurangzeb Alamgir banned all music at the court, except for the royal band. He also discouraged poetry, festivals, and painting, unless it was Arabic calligraphy.
  • In 1670 he banned court astrologers and the Solar Calendar, which had been been in use since the time of Akbar, and Hindu festivals associated with the Solar year.
  • Aurangzeb Alamgir encouraged Islamic Scholars and built many schools and colleges.
  • Aurangzeb Alamgir banned the traditional appearance of the emperor to the public.
  • Aurangzeb Alamgir himself performed all his religious duties and copied the Quran in his won handwriting twice.
  • A few Hindu who had murdered a prominent Muslims. Some Hindu schools were closed down because Muslim children were being taught things which went against Islamic beliefs.


Aurangzeb Alamgir wanted to unite the subcontinent under Islam, but as India’s population was mostly Hindu, some of the Aurangzeb Alamgir new policies began to cause trouble.

  • Aurangzeb Alamgir pushed himself very hard and tried to do more than was humanly possible under the circumstances. With only three to four hours of sleep every night, he could not possibly hope to accomplish all that he had set out to do the empire.
  • Aurangzeb Alamgir it difficult to entrust important matters to his officials, especially as he was desperately short of able and loyal men.
  • Although he was a brilliant general he, too, sometimes made mistakes. By attacking the Rajputs, for example, he lost their support along with many able Rajput generals and officials.
  • The long war with the Marathas should perhaps have been abandoned when it abandoned when it was obvious that neither side could win. A lot of men were lost during the war, and funds considerably reduced.
  • Aurangzeb Alamgir lenient taxation policy meant that there was not enough money in the treasury to fund lengthy and expensive military campaigns. By the end of his reign, the empire was nearly bankrupt.
  • Aurangzeb Alamgir employed more Hindus in government service than ever before, his general policy towards the Hindus as a whole led to rebellion and Hindu demands for independence.(


While the Mughal Emperors lived in the places and forts in great luxury and splendour, many ordinary people died in a series of famine and plagues across the Empire.

  • Several famines and plagues hit India in Akbar’s reign. The worst began in about 1595 with a drought, and lasted for three years. So many died that in some areas the streets were blocked by dead bodies.
  • In 1616, in Emperor Jahangir reign, bubonic plague hit the Punjab before spreading to other areas.
  • In shah Jahan’s reign, a famine from 1630 to 1632 killed many people and affected the cloth trade.
  • Early in Aurangzeb Alamgir reign an English traveler reported a serious famine. In the last years of Aurangzeb Alamgir reign another famine, in the Deccan, killed two million people.


The last years of Aurangzeb Alamgir were sad ones. He had imprisoned three of his five sons and a daughter. Prince Akbar had died in Persia. He had not arranged his succession and felt he could trust no-one. Shortly before he died in 1707 Aurangzeb Alamgir wrote a letter to his son Prince Azam which shows his felling that his life had been useless, and the fear that he might be punished for this sins after his death.

Aurangzeb Alamgir left instructions for his funeral. It was to be simple with cheap. The cost should be paid out of money he had earned with his own hands. His coffin was covered with a piece of white canvas which cost only five rupees, bought with money that Aurangzeb Alamgir had earned by selling caps he had quilted himself.

He also left instructions that 300 rupees, which he had earned by selling copies of the Quran that he had made, should be given to the poor. The man who had once sat on Peacock Throne covered in jewels was burried in simple, unmarked grave. Aurangzeb Alamgir died on Friday, 21 February 1707 and is buried in a simple tomb near the graves of other Muslim saints in Khuldabad, close to Daulatabad, near Ahmadnagar. With Aurangzeb Alamgir death the period of Mughal glory was over.

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