|The reign of Aurangzeb :
his treatment of the Hindus :
the Rajput revolt ;
Sivaji and the rise of the Marathas
Auranhzeb at the time of his accession. In June 1659, when Aurangzeb assumed the full honours of the imperial dignity under the title of Alamgir, conferred by his father, he was forty years of age, mature in body and mind, well skilled in affairs, both civil and military, and firmly
Aurangzeb’s principles of government. Aurangzeb never flinched from the practical action logically resulting from his theory, that it was his duty as a faithful Moslem king to foster the interests of orthodox Sunni Islam, to suppress idolatry, and, as far as possible, to discourage and disown all idolaters,
Palliation of his fight for the throne. He crossed a river of blood to gain the throne. The best defence that can be offered for the crimes by which he won it, is that indicated in his letter reproaching his old tutor:
‘Ought you not’, he writes, ‘to have foreseen that I might at some future period be compelled to contend with my brothers, sword in hand, for the crown, and for my very existence Such, as you must well known, has been the ate of the children of almost every king of Hindutan’.
That defence, as far as it goes, is sound. If any one of his brothers had gained the prize, Auragzeb would have suffered death, and he can hardly be blamed because he preferred to inflict, rather, than suffer, death. The deposition of his father was a neccessary consequence
Mir Jumla’s attack on Assam. In the earlier part of the reign the only wars, other than that of the sucession, which claim notice are those with Assam and Arakan. Mir jumla, the able general, who had done such good service for Aurangzeb when he was viceroy of the Deccan, and again in hunting down Shuja,
Annexation of part of Arakan by shayista khan. In the course of the same year, Aurangzeb’s uncle, Shayista khan, who had allowed himself to be surprised by the Marathasin the Deccan, was transferred to Bengal as the sucessor of Mir jumla. He governed the eastern province for about thirty years. His expulsion of the
Twenty years’ pece. ‘The expeditions into Assam and Arakan did not disturb the general peace of Hindustan. A profound tranquillity, broken by no rebellion of any political importance, reigned throughout Northern India for the first twenty years of Aurangzeb’s rule.’ It is true that for nearly three years (1673-5) the Afghan clans beyond the Indus gave trouble,
Aurangzeb’s history. Aurangzeb was a religious bigot, nad he reversed in every repect the wise policy of Akbar towards his Hindu subjects. In 1669, hearing that certain Brahmins were giving religious lectures at Multan and Benares, he ordered ‘all governors of provinces to destroy with a willing hand the schools and temples of the infidels’.Inconsequence,
Alienation of the Rajputs. After some time the rana of Mewar (Udaipur) made an honourable peace, by a treaty which contained no allusion to the odious jizya, and Raja Jaswant singh’s son was recongnized as chieftain of Marwar. The mischief, however,had been done, and Aurangzeb had wantonly thrown away his most trusty weapon, the devotion of the Rajput chivalry. During the following
Prohibition of histories. A curious decree of the eleventh year of the reign abolished the office of imperial chronicler and forbade the publication of histories by private persons. This prohibition has caused a certain amount of indistinctness in the details and obscurity in the chronology of the greater part of Aurangzeb’s long reign. Such histories as were written secretly had to wait for
Aurangzeb and the Decan. In 1657, when called away to take part in the fight for the throne, prince Aurangzeb, then viceroy of the Deccan, that is to say of khandesh, Berar, Telingana, and Ahmadnagar, seemed to be an on the point of annexing the kingdoms of Golkonda and Bijapur and bringing the whole of the Deccan under the rule of his father. Many years elapsed before Auragzeb as emperor was able to return
The new-born Maratha power. Before taking up the story of Aurangzeb’s campaigns in the Deccan during the twenty-six years from the close of 1681 to 1707, we must go back to trace the origin of the new-born Maratha power and sketch the life of sivaji, who gave it birth. the marathas are the Hindu population of Maharashtra, the country of the western Ghats, lying to the south of the satpura hills, to the west of the warda
Description of the Marathas. The inhabitants of the barren uplands of the Deccan, with its fierce heat and uncertain rainfall, are a frugal, manly race. ‘They are ‘,says Elphinstone , ‘small, sturdy men, well made though not hansome. They are all active, laborious, hardy, and perserving. If they have none of their indolence or their want of wordly wisdom.’ One feature of the Deccan must be particularly noted. It is intersected
Early life of sivaji. Sivaji, the great Maratha champion, belonged to the Bhosle family. His father Shahji was a soldier of fortune, and while he was away on distant campaigns in southern India, on behalf of the kings of Bijapur, the lad was brought up at poona under his mother Jijabai. He became inspired with the idea of freeing his country from the Mohammedan yoke. At the age of nineteen he began his career by seizing some of the hill
Shayista Khan. The Maratha now ventured to ravage the Mogul territories, and thus provoked Aurangzeb to send his uncle, Shayista khan, to suppress him. But the Mogul commander, having allowed himself to be surprised, was transferred to Bengal, as already narrated (ante,p.208).
Auragzeb’s mistake. Other generals, including pince Muazzam, were now sent against the rebel, and after some time (1665) Raja Jai Singh of jaipur persuaded sivaji to submit and even to come to Agra to do homage. Aurangzeb enforced the court rules of etiquette on his opponent, and so incurred his undying enmity. Sivaji escaped secretly from the court, returned to the Deccan, and in February 1668 compelled Aurangzeb to reconize him as Raja.
Renewed war; death of sivaji, 1680. The war was soon renewed, and the Marathas freely plundered the imperial territories, including the rich town of Surat, all except the English factory there. In 1674 Sivaji proclaimed himself sovereign of the Deccan with royal pomp at his capital of Raigarh. He then crossed the Narbada, and levied the chauth, or fourth part of the land revenue, a species of blackmail, payment of which was supposed to protect a district from plunder.
Civil administration. Sivaji, who had begun life as a petty chieftain, showed, as his power grew, that he knew how to govern his unruly subjects. He was a devout Hindu, and , although illeterate and unable to sign his name, was well versed in the sacred lkore dear to all Hindus. His government, accordingly, was organized on a Hindu pattern. The supreme authority under the Raja was a council of eight ministers who followed the principles of Brahmin law. Tge chief minister was called the Peshwa.
Army and navy. The army was controlled by a commander-in-chief, below whom was a regular gradation of officers. The men were paid. At first Sivaji relied on his infantry recruited from the Western Ghats and the Konkanman who could climb like monkeys and capture the hill forts which were the seat of his power. Gradually the light cavalry became the most important Maratha arm. The horsemen preferred the lance to any other weapon. Discipline was strict. No soldier was allowed to bring a woman into the field on pain of death. In this respect
Character of Sivaji. Sivaji was a born leader of men, and a real master of guerilla warfare. There can be no doubt that he rally believed himself to be born with a mission ‘to protect Brahmins and kind’, and to set his country free. He lived in a dark and cruel age, when religious feeling ran high, and admittedly his career was stained by deeds which would
‘He made it a rule that, wherever his followers went plundering, they should do no harm to mosques, the Book of God, or anyone’s women. Whenever a copy of the holy Koran cam into his hands, he treated it with respect, and gave it to some of his Mussulaman followers. When the women of any Hindu or Mohammedan were taken prisoners by his men and they had no friend to protect them, he watched over them till their relations came to buy them their liberty.’
Aurangzeb assumes command in the Deccan. At the close of 1681, a year after Sivaji’s death, Aurangzeb in person took command of the army of the Deccan, resolved to extinguish the kingdoms of Golkonda and Bijapur, to curb the insolence of the Marathas, and, if possible, to bring the whole south under Mogul rule.
His treatment of the Hindua. The emperor’;s obstinate adherence to his wrong-headed policy of annoying his Hindu subjects added immensely to the inherent difficulties of his task. The first thing he did was to issue stringent orders for the collection of the arrears of the jizya tax in the southern provinces, and in three months he compelled his officers to squeeze twenty-six thousand rupees out of Burhanpur. Insult was added to pecuniary injury by a proclamation that no Hindu should ride in apalankeen or an Arab horse without special licence.
The affairs of Golkonda. When he returned to the Deccan he found the government of Golkonda in confusion. The king, Abul Hasan, had abandoned himself to pleasure and ceased to take any part in public affairs, which were controlled by the representative of the emperor at his court and by two Hindu officials. Aurangzeb, who could not endure Hindu influence, sent his son, Prince Muazzam, to restore order. The prince dallied over his task, but at last attacked the city of Hyderabad, which his soldiers plundered without permission. The king took reguge in the adjoining fortress of Golkonda.
Annexation of Bijapur, 1686. The emperor, leaving Golkonda alone for the moment, deputed another son, prince Azam, to reduce Bijapur. He had little success, and was superseded by his ather, who took the capital in 1686 after an investment lasting more than a year. The kingdom ceased to exist, and the splendid city became the abode of desolation, as it is for the most part to this day.
Siege and annexation of Golkonda. Aurangzeb then resolved to make an end of the isster state of Golkonda, and to depose the king, who was accused of sending money to the Marathas, and allying himself with infidels. When Abul Hasan perceived that his destruction was decided on, he is said to have become a changed man, to have cast aside his evil habits and played the part of a hero. Certainly the city was put in a good state of defence, and when the siege began early in 1687, the imperial troops found that they had been set a hard task. The Marathas cut off the supplies of the besiegers, who were reduced to extremities by famine and plague.
Struggle with the Marathas. The two Mohammedan kingdoms had been destroyed, but the marathas remained unsubdued, and the remaining twenty years of Aurangzeb’s life were spent in the vain attempt to subdue them. The emperor never returned to the north, and wasted those weary years gaining ‘ a long series of petty victories followed by larger losses’. His armies seemed to be getting the upper hand between 1698-1701, but in the suceeding years the enemy recovered the lost ground.
Maratha method of warfare. The Marathas never, or hardly ever, risked a general engagement, but empended all their energies, like the Boers in the south African war, in cutting off supplies, intercepting convoys, and incessantly harassing the enemy. Mounted on hardy ponies, they were ablr to move with a quickness which completely baffled the imperial armies; and, so each man carried with him his simple food and belongings, they needed no transport trains.
Inefficiency of the Mogul army. The mogul forces, on the other hand, were unwideldy and almost immovable. The royal tents alone occupied a space three miles in circuit, and a contemporary traveller describes the whole camp as being ‘ a moving city containing half a million of souls’. Grant Duff sums up the situation in these words: ‘These apparently vigorous efforts of the government were unsubstantial; there was motion and bustle, without zeal or efficacy; the empire was unwidely, its system relaxed, and its officiers corrupt beyond all example.’ Success in these circumstances was impossible.
Execution of Sambhaji ; Raja Shahu. For a time the emperor’s arms had a promise of success, and Aurangzeb had the poor satisfaction of putting to death with torture Sambhaji, a son of Shivaji, in 1689. He spared the life of sivaji jonior, nicknamed Shabu (sahu), the infant son of Sambhaji, and kept his at court until his own death, when the young man was released and returned to his own dominions. He became Raja in 1708 after a contest.
Tara Bai. A few years after Sambhaji’s execution, Tara Bai, widow of Raja Rama, another son of Sivaji, had retrieved the Maratha losses, and directed the policy of devasting the imperial territories with such energy that the emperor was shut up in his camp, and his treasure was plundered almost under his eyes.
Retreat and death of Aurangzeb. The mogul army gradually crumbled to pieces, and ultimately (1706) Aurangzeb was forced to retire on Ahmadnagar, where he died at the begining of March 1707 (N.S), in the forty-ninth year of his reign and the eighty-eighth of his life. His dust lies under a plain tomb in the village of Rauza or Khuldabad near Daulatabad.
Aurangzeb’s farewell words. However severely the policy and conduct of Aurangzeb may be junged, it is impossible to refuse pity to the old man on his death-bed when he addressed his sons in these sad words:
‘I know not who I am, where I shall go , or what will happen to this sinner, full of sins. Now I will say good-bye to every one in this world and entrust every one to the care of God. My famous and auspicious sons should not quarrel among themselves and allow a general massacre of the people who are the servants of God. . . My years have gone by profitless. God has been in my heart, yet my darkened eyes have not reconginized His light. . . There is no hope for me in the future. The fever is gone, but only the skin is left. . . The army is confounded, and without heart or help, even as I am; apart from God, with no rest for the heart
Aurangzeb’s failure. The causes of Aurangzeb’s failure are obvious enough, and have been indicated in the course of the narrative, but it may be well to sum them up briefly. Aurangzeb acted as if he were merely the head of the Sunni sect Mohammedans, and not the protector of all the races and creeds of India. Akbar had realized the truth that the authority of the monarch of an empire inhabited chiefly by Hindus could not be lasting unless it rested on the support of all his people. During the greater part of his reign he treated all religions with impartial justice. Only in his latter days he forgot himself so far so to violate his avowed principles by
His measures forced all Hindus to regard him as their enemy and deprived him of the willing service of the Rajput clans. Sivaji, whom the emperor despised as a mere robber chief, was honoured by the Marathas as a hero, the champion and protector of Hinduism aginst the imperial bigot. Aurangzeb’s Sunni bigotry made him as hostile to the shah states of Bijapur and Golkonda as he was to the Hindu powers. He thus shattered the forces of Islam in the Deccan, by which the Hindu revolt of the marathas might have been held in check. The emperor’s suspious disposition, which prevented him from trusting anybody, deprived him likewise of all chance of finding trustworthy agents. He was, consequently,
Chronology of Aurangzeb’s Reign
Deposition of Shahjahan and informal accession July 1658
Formal installation of Aurangzeb June 1659
Charter granted by charles II to the E.I Company ;
Mir Jumla’s attack on Assam 1662-3
Shayista khan surprised by the Maathas 1663
Foundation of the French Compagnie des Indes 1664
Death of shahjahan ; annexation of part of Arakan
by shayista khan 1666
Prohibition of public idolatrous worship 1669
Sivaji formally proclaimed as sovereign 1674
Revival of the jizya 1679
Death of Sivaji 1680
Rebellion of the Ranjputs and prince Akbar 1680-1
Assumption of command in the Deccan by Aurangzeb 1681-2
Annexation of Golkonda ; Greatest extension of Mogul empire 1687-91
Execution of Sambhaji, son of Sivaji 1689
Foundation of Calcutta by job Charnock 1690
United East India Company 1720-8
Retreat of Aurangzeb to Ahmadnagar 1706
Death of Aurangzeb 1707
GENEALOGY OF THE ‘GREAT MOGULS’ (Principal Names)
Babur (Zahir-ud-din Mohammed, descended from the
The reign of Aurangzeb : his treatment of the Hindus