Archive for the ‘akhbarat’ Category

Temple Destruction by Arangzeb (Proof Documents)

April 9, 2009
Exhibit No. 6: Keshava Rai Temple. “Even to look at a temple is a sin for a Musalman”, Aurangzeb. Umurat-i-Hazur Kishwar-Kashai Julus (R.Yr.) 9, Rabi II 24 / 13 October 1666.

‘It was reported to the Emperor (Aurangzeb) that in the temple of Keshava Rai at Mathura, there is a stone railing presented by Bishukoh (one without dignity i.e. Prince Dara, Aurangzeb’s elder brother). On hearing of it, the Emperor observed, “In the religion of the Musalmans it is improper even to look at a temple and this Bishukoh has installed this kathra (barrier railing). Such an act is totally unbecoming of a Musalman. This railing should be removed (forthwith)”. His Majesty ordered Abdun Nabi Khan to go and remove the kathra, which is in the middle of the temple. The Khan went and removed it. After doing it he had audience. He informed that the idol of Keshava Rai is in the inner chamber. The railing presented by Dara was in front of the chamber and that, formerly, it was of wood. Inside the kathra used to stand the sevakas of the shrine (pujaris etc.) and outside it stood the people (khalq)’.


Aurangzeb’s solemn observation recorded in his own Court’s bulletin that “In the religion of the Musalmans it is improper even to look at a temple” and therefore, presentation of a stone railing to Keshava Rai temple by Dara was “totally unbecoming of a Musalman” casts serious doubts about a few instances of religious toleration and temple grants attributed to him. Only two years before his long awaited death, he had ordered (1st January 1705) to “demolish the temple of Pandharpur and to take the butchers of the camp there and slaughter cows in the temple … It was done”. Akhbarat, 49-7, cited in J.N. Sarkar, Aurangzeb, Vol.III, 189).

Exhibit No. 7: Demolition of Kalka’s Temple – I. Siyah Waqa’i- Darbar Regnal Year 10, Rabi I, 23 / 3 September 1667.

“The asylum of Shariat (Shariat Panah) Qazi Abdul Muqaram has sent this arzi to the sublime Court: a man known to him told him that the Hindus gather in large numbers at Kalka’s temple near Barahapule (near Delhi); a large crowd of the Hindus is seen here. Likewise, large crowds are seen at (the mazars) of Khwaja Muinuddin, Shah Madar and Salar Masud Ghazi. This amounts to bid‘at (heresy) and deserves consideration. Whatever orders are required should be issued.

Saiyid Faulad Khan was thereupon ordered (by the Emperor) to send one hundred beldars to demolish the Kalka temple and other temples in its neighbourhood which were in the Faujdari of the Khan himself; these men were to reach there post haste, and finish the work without a halt”.


Kalkaji’s temple which stands today was rebuilt soon after Aurangzeb’s death (1707 A.D.) on the remains of the old temple dedicated to Goddess Kali. The two Akhbarat dated R.Yr. 10, Rabi I, 23 and Rabi II, 3 (Sept.3 and Sept. 12, 1667) provide details regarding the demolition of the temple on Aurangzeb’s orders. Since 1764, the temple has been renovated and altered several times but the main 18th century structure more or less remains the same. The site is very old dating back to Emperor Asoka’s time (3rd century B.C.). There is mention of Kalkaji in the Maratha records of 1738. People flock to the temple in large numbers especially during Navratras.

Exhibit No. 8: Demolition of Kalka Temple II. Siyah Akhbarat-i-Darbar-i-Mu‘alla Julus 10, Rabi II 3 / 12 September 1667.

“Saiyad Faulad Khan reported that in compliance with the orders, beldars were sent to demolish the Kalka temple which task they have done. During the course of the demolition, a Brahmin drew out a sword, killed a bystander and then turned back and attacked the Saiyad also. The Brahmin was arrested”.


There are only a few recorded instances of armed opposition by outraged Hindus, such as at Goner (near Jaipur), Ujjain, Udaipur and Khandela, but there must have been many more such instances of angry outbursts and resistance against Muslim vandalism which do not find mention in the official papers of Emperor Aurangzeb.

Most of the Hindus took the destruction of these temples philosophically considering these as acts of ignorance and folly for a vain purpose. They regarded that it was beyond the understanding or intelligence of the Musalmans to comprehend the principle behind the idol worship or the fundamental oneness of saguna and nirguna worship. The Hindus believed that the Gods and Goddesses leave for their abode before the hatchet or the hammer of the vile “mlecchas” or “asuras” so much as even touched the idols. The idea has been well described in Kanhadade Prabandha (wr. 1456 A.D.) when giving an account of the destruction of the Somnath temple by Sultan Alauddin’s troops in 1299.

Exhibit No. 9: General Order for the Destruction of Temples. (9th April 1669)

“The Lord Cherisher of the Faith learnt that in the provinces of Thatta, Multan and especially at Benaras, the Brahmin misbelievers used to teach their false books in their established schools, and their admirers and students, both Hindu and Muslim, used to come from great distances to these misguided men in order to acquire their vile learning. His Majesty, eager to establish Islam, issued orders to the governors of all the provinces to demolish the schools and temples of the infidels, and, with the utmost urgency, put down the teaching and the public practice of the religion of these unbelievers”.


This is not the only instance when Aurangzeb prevented the Muslims from acquiring knowledge and wisdom of the Hindu philosophical works and other Sanskrit and Bhasha classics, or sharing spiritual and intellectual experience, and thus stifled the process of fusion, or at least bridging of the gulf between the two creeds with very different approaches, principles, values, levels of intellectual attainments and period of evolution of ideas. A general order of this type to put down the teaching and public practice of religion by the Hindus was used as a ground to demolish some of the most venerable shrines of India during the next few years, but despite the severe and comprehensive nature of the order, it failed to wrest from Banaras its unique prestige and position as the chief centre of learning of the Vedas, Dharmashastras, the Six Systems of Philosophy, Sanksrit language and literature, and Astronomy.

Exhibit No. 10: General Order for the demolition of Hindu Temples.

On the 9th April 1669, Aurangzeb “eager to establish Islam, issued orders to the governors of all the provinces to demolish the schools and temples of the infidels, and, with the utmost urgency, put down the teaching and the public practice of the religion of these unbelievers (Hindus)” Maasir-i-‘Alamgiri, p.81).

In the sketch, the artist has shown the destruction of the temples of Somanath, Jagannath (Puri), Kashi Vishwanath (Banaras)and Keshava Rai (Mathura), which were all highly venerated shrines, as symbolic of Aurangzeb’s ideal of thorough destruction of Hindu temples. In the centre is a portion of the infamous order of the 9th April issued by him.

Exhibit No. 11: Demolition of the temple of Viswanath (Banaras). August 1669 A.D.

It was reported that, “according to the Emperor’s command, his officers had demolished the temple of Viswanath at Kashi”. (Maasiri-‘ Alamgiri, 88)


Kashi is one of the mort sacred towns in India and reference to the worship of Shiva as Vishveshvara goes back to very early times. Kashi itself enjoys highest sanctity since times immemorial. According to the Puranas, every foot-step taken in Kashi Kshetra has the sanctity of making a pilgrimage to a tirtha. Lord Vishvanatha is regarded as the protector of Kashi and the belief is that one earns great religious merit by having darshana (view) of the deity after having bathed in the Ganges. After destruction of the temple on Aurangzeb’s orders, a mosque was built which still stands there as a testimony of the great tolerance and spirit of forgiveness of the Hindus even towards those who had for centuries desecrated and destroyed their temples and other places of worship and learning, and also as a lesson that “mutually uncongenial cultures”, when forced by circumstances to intermingle in the same Geographical area, result in such calamities. A portion of the sculpture of the demolished temple, probably built in the late 16th century, still survives to tell the fate of Aurangzeb’s vandalism and barbarity. The present temple of Vishveshvara was built by Ahilya Bai Holkar of Indore.

Exhibit No. 12 i

Exhibit No. 12 ii

Exhibit No. 12 iii

Exhibit No. 12 i – ii – iii : “During this month of Ramzan (1080 A.H./January-February 1670) ….. the Emperor ….. The reviver of the Faith of the Prophet issued orders for the demolition of the Dehra of Keshava Rai in Mathura. In a short time the destruction of this strong foundation of infidelity was accomplished and on its site a lofty mosque was built. ….. the idols large and small of the temple were brought to Agra and buried under the steps of the mosque of Begum Sahib” (Maasir-i- ‘Alamgiri, 95-96).

Exhibit No. 13: Demolition of Keshava Rai temple at Mathura. (13th January – 11th February 1670)

The great temple of Keshava Rai at Mathura was built by Bir Singh Deo Bundela during Jahangir’s time at a cost of thirty-three lakhs of rupees. The Dehra of Keshava Rai was one of the most magnificent temples ever built in India and enjoyed veneration of the Hindus throughout the land. Prince Dara Shukoh, who was looked upon by the masses as the future Emperor, had presented a carved stone railing to the temple which was installed in front of the deity at some distance; the devotees stood outside this railing to have ‘darshan’ of Keshava Rai. The railing was removed on Auranzeb’s orders in October 1666.

The Dehra of Keshava Rai was demolished in the month of Ramzan, 1080 A.H. (13th January – 11th February 1670) by Aurangzeb’s order. “In a short time, by the great exertion of the officers, the destruction of this strong foundation of infidelity was accomplished and on its site a lofty mosque was built at the expenditure of a large sum”. To the author of Maasir-i-‘Alamigiri, the accomplishment of this “seemingly impossible work was an “instance of the strength of the Emperor’s faith”. Even more disgraceful was transporting the idols to Agra and burying them under the steps of the mosque of the Begum Sahib “in order to be continually trodden upon”.

The painting shows the demolition of the great temple, on Aurngzeb’s orders in progress and subsequent uncivilized conduct towards the idols.

Exhibit No. 14: Demolition of Somnath temple.

About the time the general order for destruction of Hindu temples was issued (9th April 1669), the highly venerated temple of Somanath built on the sea-shore in Kathaiwad was also destroyed. The famous temple was dedicated to Lord Shiva. In the 11th century, the temple was looted and destroyed by Mahmud Ghaznavi. It was rebuilt by King Bhim Deva Solanki of Gujarat and again renovated by Kumarapal in 1143-44 A.D. The temple was again destroyed by Alauddin Khalji’s troops in 1299. In a rare description of the scene of a temple destruction, like of which continued to occur time and again during the long and disastrous rule of the Musalman rulers in India, we have the following account. “The Mlechchha (asura) stone breakers”, writes Padmanabha in his classic work “climbed up the shikhar of the temple and began to rain blows on the stone idols on all three sides by their hammers, the stone pieces falling all around. They loosened every joint of the temple building, and then began to break the different layers (thara) and the sculptured elephants and horses carved on them by incessant blows of their hammers. Then, amidst loud and vulgar clamour, they began to apply force from both the sides to uproot the massive idol by means of wooden beams and iron crowbars” (Kaanhadade Prabandha, Canto I, vss. 94-96).

After the destruction of Somnath temple during Alauddin’s time, it was rebuilt again. When Aurangzeb gave orders for its destruction, the scene must have been little different from the one described by Padmanabha. The artist in his painting has tried to recreate the scene.

Book Review: Islamisation of Pakistani Social Studies Textbooks

April 9, 2009

Book Review: Islamisation of Pakistani Social Studies Textbooks

By Yoginder Sikand

26 March, 2009

Book Review:
Name of the Book: Islamisation of Pakistani Social Studies Textbooks
Author: Yvette Claire Roser
Publisher: Rupa & Co
Price Rs. 195
Pages: 109
ISBN: 81-291-0221-8

Contrary to what professional historians might claim, there is really nothing as an objective, unbiased and completely accurate writing of history. After all, not everything, even of significance, of what happened in the past can possibly be included in a text, and history book writers have to pick and choose from past events that they deem fit be recorded. The very process of picking and choosing from the past is determined, among other factors, by the subjective biases of the history writer as well as his or her own social and institutional location. Then, history writing is not simply about narrating the past but also involves a certain element of evaluating it. Here, again, this is strongly determined by the personal biases and preference of the individual historian.

The element of bias is greatly exacerbated when history textbooks are—as they are in almost every country today—commissioned by the state. The state wishes to mould its citizens in a particular way, to make them what it considers as ‘good’ and ‘law-abiding’ citizens, who have completely internalized the underlying logic and ideology of the state. The state, in its capacity of representative of a country’s ruling class, seeks to impose through state-sponsored history texts the hegemonic ideas of this class upon its citizenry. It is thus not surprising that such texts generally parrot the state-centric view of history that seeks to bestow legitimacy on the state and the country’s ruling class and ‘normalise’ their logic and world-view.

This incisive critique of state-sponsored social science textbooks in Pakistan highlights the convoluted politics of historiography and what this means for the production of a ‘social commonsense’ for a state’s citizenry. Although Roser does not say it in so many words, the current turbulent political scenario in Pakistan, in particular the rise of radical Islamist forces in the country, cannot be seen as inseparable from the narrow political agenda that the Pakistani state, ever since its formation, has consistently sought to pursue as is reflected in the social science textbooks that it has commissioned, and through which it has sought to impose its own ideology on its people.

Ross’s study focuses on the textbooks used in Pakistani school for the compulsory subject called ‘Pakistan Studies’, which was introduced in the reign of the American-backed military dictator General Zia ul-Haq in the mid-1970s. Pakistan Studies replaced the teaching of History and Geography, and was moulded in such a fashion as to instill in students an undying and unquestioning loyalty to the official ‘Ideology of Pakistan’ (called the nazariya-e Pakistan, in Urdu). This ideology, questioning which is considered a punishable crime in the country, is based on the far-fetched and completely bankrupt notion of the Muslims and Hindus of the pre-Partition Indian subcontinent as constituting two homogeneous and wholly irreconcilable ‘nations’. (Incidentally, this is the same perverse logic that underlies radical Hindutva in India). It claims that Muslims and Hindus have never been able to live amicably together, that they have always been opposed to each other, that they share nothing in common, and that, hence, it was but natural that Pakistan should come into being for the sake of the Muslims of South Asia.

There are several defining and characteristic features of the Pakistani social science textbooks that Rosser examines. Firstly, as she notes, their extreme anti-Indianism. This is a reflection of the fact that the ‘Ideology of Pakistan’, indeed the very rationale for the creation and continued existence of the state of Pakistan, is premised on the notion of undying and perpetual hatred of and opposition to India. India thus comes to be presented as viscerally opposed to Pakistan and as constituting a mortal threat to its very existence. In this way, a form of Pakistani nationalism is sought to be fostered through the texts that is hyper-chauvinistic, and one that is based on a constant reinforcement of an almost crippling sense of being besieged by what is projected as an ‘evil’ neighbor.

Secondly, and linked to the anti-Indianism that pervades these texts, are the repeated negative and hostile references to the Hindus and their faith. Hinduism is portrayed and projected in wholly negative terms, as if lacking any appreciable elements at all. Its followers are presented in a similarly unflattering way: as allegedly mean and cruel, and constantly scheming against Muslims and their faith. Hindus, like Muslims, thus come to be presented in strikingly stereotypical terms: the former as virulently hostile enemies, and the latter as brave soldiers in the path of God. They are portrayed as two solid, monolithic blocs, and as being without any internal differences whatsoever, of class, class, gender, region, language, political orientation and ethnicity. The only identity that they are projected as possessing is that of religion, which is presented in starkly reified terms that often have little resonance with empirical reality. In the process, the diverse, often contradictory, interpretations, expressions and the lived realities of Islam and Hinduism in South Asia are completely ignored in favour of extreme literalist, ‘orthodox’ and textual understandings. ‘Popular’ religious traditions, such as certain forms of Sufism and Bhakti, that bring people of diverse communal backgrounds together, are totally ignored, because they obviously stridently contradict the claims of the ‘two-nation’ theory.

Thirdly, the textbooks present Pakistani history as synonymous with the history of political conquests by successive Muslim rulers, starting with the Arab commander Muhammad bin Qasim in the mid seventh century. All these invaders and rulers, so the books piously claim, were goaded by a powerful sense of religious mission to establish ‘Islamic’ rule in the region. This alleged religious aspiration of theirs is presented as having finally culminated in the creation of Pakistan in 1947. Contrary to what is popularly known about him, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the ideological founder of Pakistan, is presented as an ‘orthodox’ Muslim, allegedly inspired by the vision of establishing an ‘Islamic’ state run by Muslim clerics—something which was not the case at all. The fact that most of the Muslim rulers and conquerors that these texts lionise might actually have been inspired by less noble motives—to plunder or rule—is, of course, conveniently ignored. Religion—in this case Islam—thus comes to be seen and projected as the sole motor of history, with other factors, such as power and economics, having, at best, only a minor role to play. The history of South Asia before Muhammad bin Qasim is hardly mentioned at all, although it was in what is Pakistan today that the Indus Valley Civilisation flourished, that the invading Aryans composed the Vedas and that Buddhism led to a great flourishing of various arts and sciences.

In other words, every effort is made in the textbooks to present Pakistan as an extension of ‘Muslim’ West Asia, instead of a part of the Indic-dominated South Asia. Not surprisingly, as Rosser observes, the texts single out particular historical figures who are known for their battles against Hindu rulers as heroes, among these the most important being Muhammad bin Qasim, Mamhud Ghaznavi and Aurangzeb. Other Muslim rulers, most notably Akbar, who sought to reconcile Hindus and Muslims and promote a generous ecumenism, are either totally ignored or else reviled as alleged ‘enemies of Islam’. Furthermore, these figures, of both ‘heroes’ and ‘villains’, are isolated from their historical contexts, leading to biography turning into hagiography or demonology, as the case might be, in order to serve the agenda of the advocates of the ‘two nation’ theory.

The same holds true in the texts’ depictions of certain key Muslim religious figures. Thus, ‘orthodox’ ulema or Islamic clerics who stressed the claim of the inferiority of the Hindus and advised Muslim rulers to take harsh measures against them are hailed as heroes of Islam, while others, including many Sufis, who sought to preach love and tolerance between Muslims and others and preached an ethical monotheism transcending narrowly-inscribed boundaries of community, are conveniently left out or else branded as ‘un-Islamic’.

A fourth characteristic feature of these textbooks is their distinctly anti-democratic character. They purport to tell the story of the Muslims of South Asia from the point of view of Pakistan’s ruling elites. In the process, history comes to be presented as simply a long list of battles and other ‘achievements’ (whether real or imaginary) of a long chain of Muslim rulers. ‘Ordinary’ people have no voice, being completely invisiblised in these texts. It is as if history is made only by rulers, and that the histories of ‘ordinary’ people are not worth recording or commemorating. It would seem as if the writers of these books are wholly ignorant of new developments in writing ‘peoples’ or ‘subaltern’ histories.
The starkly elitist bias of the texts is also reflected in the fact that they almost completely ignore perspectives of ethnic groups other than Pakistan’s dominant Punjabi and Muhajir communities. This is hardly surprising, since, as Rosser notes, most of these texts have been penned by authors who belong to these two communities. She writes that the absence of the perspectives and historical experiences of the numerically smaller ethnic and regional communities of Pakistan, such as the Baluchis and Sindhis, also has serious implications for policy making, for the demand of smaller provinces for regional peace in South Asia and equitable local development is not sufficiently appreciated and incorporated in national policies. This, Rosser comments, is reflected in the great ‘tension between official history manufactured in Islamabad and the historical perspectives of regional ethnic groups’ (p.4).

The anti-democratic thrust of these texts is also reflected in what Rosser describes as ‘a radically restrictive brand of Islamic exclusivism’ that they project and propagate. The sort of Islam that these texts seek to promote is premised on the notion and dream of Muslim political hegemony and a deep-rooted sense of the innate inferiority of people of other faiths. This is—and this is important to note—just one version of Islam among many, and one which Muslims who believe in an inclusive version of their faith would vehemently oppose. However, the texts present this, what Rosser calls ‘authoritarian’, ‘legalistic’ and ‘ritualistic’, brand of Islam as normative and defining, and completely reject alternate, competing, more democratic and humanistic interpretations of the faith (p.9).

Rosser’s findings are of critical importance, particularly in the context of present developments in Pakistan, which is witnessing the alarming growth of radical Islamist groups, impelled by a version of Islam very similar to the one these texts uphold. Obviously, explanations of the growing threat of radical Islamism in Pakistan cannot ignore the crucial role of these texts, which are compulsory reading for all Pakistani students, thus playing a central role in moulding their minds and worldviews. The texts are also a reflection of, as well as a cause for, the pathetic state of social science research and discourse in present-day Pakistan.

Rosser’s Indian readers need not have much cause to be self-congratulatory, however. Although historiography in India is certainly more sophisticated in many senses than in Pakistan, a significant section of Indian history writers, particularly of the Hindutva brand, are no different from those Pakistani writers whose texts Rosser examines. Indeed, they speak the same language of hatred and communal supremacy, propelling the same tired, debunked myth of Hindus and Muslims being perpetually at odds with each other. Likewise, they are both profoundly anti-democratic, having no space for the voices and aspirations of socially, culturally and economically oppressed groups, upon whose enforced silence is premised the artifice of the ‘nation’ (‘Islamic’ or ‘Hindu’, as the case might be), whose sole representative ruling elites claim to be.

Yoginder Sikand works with the Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy at the National Law School, Bangalore.

Aurangzeb, Akbar, and the Communalization of History

April 9, 2009
Source: MANAS
[see also Aurangzeb: A Political History; Aurangzeb: Religious Policies;
Mughal Empire]

In Indian history, the syncretistic and communalist viewpoints have conventionally been represented, to take one case in point, by offering a contrast between the lives of the two emperors under whom the Mughal Empire was at its zenith, Akbar (reigned 1556-1605) and Aurangzeb (reigned 1658-1707). Akbar is often adduced as an example of the tolerant ruler, whose policies demonstrate that though he himself was a Muslim, the state was not Islamic. Some have even pointed to him as a ‘secular’ ruler, when scarcely any monarch in Europe was such, and his advocacy of a new faith, the Din-i-ilahi, which combined elements from various religions, exemplifies the ecumenism with which he is associated. “He looked upon all religions alike”, writes Tara Chand, “and regarded it his duty to make no difference between his subjects on the basis of religion. He threw upon the highest appointments to non-Muslims.” [1] Though it is admitted that he may have forged political and military alliances with Hindu rulers from considerations of expediency, other historians allude to more enduring signs of his real commitment to religious harmony and interest in different faiths, such as his marriage to Rajput women, his scholarly interest in epics such as the Ramayana, and his zeal in promoting Hindu learning. Historians point to Akbar’s elimination of the jizya (poll-tax) usually levied on non-Muslims and his assumption of final authority on religious questions on which there might have been conflict of opinion among Muslim theologians, thereby undermining the authority of the ulama (Muslim clergy). Describing Akbar’s success as “astonishing”, Jawaharlal Nehru gave it as his opinion, in a work that places him among the ranks of historians, that Akbar “created a sense of oneness among the diverse elements of north and central India.” [2]

The commonplace view of Aurangzeb, on the other hand, is that he repudiated Akbar’s policies of religious toleration, and by alienating Hindus he undermined the very empire whose tremendous expansion he masterminded. Nehru maintained that Aurangzeb had “put the clock back”, undoing what his predecessors had achieved by working against the “genius of the nation” and ignoring the common culture that had been forged among the different elements of the Indian population. “When Aurangzeb began to oppose this movement [of synthesis] and suppress it and to function more as a Moslem than an Indian ruler,” Nehru argued, “the Mughal Empire began to break up.” But where Nehru saw Aurangzeb as a “bigot and an austere puritan” whose policies were instrumental in creating unease and dissent, and Tara Chand deplored his “misdirected efforts” which caused “irreparable damage” to the “great edifice of the empire”, [3] many Indian historians have been inclined to take a much harsher view of Aurangzeb’s conduct. In this they were to follow the lead supplied by Jadunath Sarkar, whose 1928 biography of Aurangzeb in four volumes bequeathed the view of Aurangzeb that still predominates in the popular imagination. Sarkar suggested that Aurangzeb intended nothing less than to establish an Islamic state in India, an objective that could not be fulfilled without “the conversion of the entire population to Islam and the extinction of every form of dissent”; and to render this scenario more complete, he proposed that the jizya (poll-tax) on non-Muslims, which Aurangzeb had re-instituted in 1679, was aimed at forcibly converting Hindus to Islam, though he was unable to marshal evidence to substantiate this view. [4]

If Aurangzeb was so ferocious a communalist, why is it, some historians have asked, that the number of Hindus employed in positions of eminence under Aurangzeb’s reign rose from 24.5% in the time of his father Shah Jahan to 33% in the fourth decade of his own rule? They suggest, moreover, that Aurangzeb did not indiscriminately destroy Hindu temples, as he is commonly believed to have done so, and that he directed the destruction of temples only when faced with insurgency. This was almost certainly the case with the Keshava Rai temple in the Mathura region, where the Jats rose in rebellion; and yet even this policy of reprisal may have been modified, as Hindu temples in the Deccan were seldom destroyed. The image of Aurangzeb as an idol-breaker may not withstand scrutiny, since there is evidence to show that, like his predecessors, he continued to confer land grants (jagirs) upon Hindu temples, such as the Someshwar Nath Mahadev temple in Allahabad, Jangum Badi Shiva temple in Banaras, Umanand temple in Gauhati, and numerous others. [5] On the other hand, one might argue, if Akbar was so dedicated to the principle of religious harmony, why is it that none of the Mughal princesses were ever allowed to marry into Rajput households? And while he may have propagated a new syncretistic faith, how was it received by ordinary Muslims? Moreover, do not both the supporters of Akbar and critics of Aurangzeb presume that relations between Hindus and Muslims are to be inferred by studying the lives of rulers, or at best members of the ruling class? What, in any case, is really conceded when it is admitted that Akbar was tolerant towards other faiths to the same extent that Aurangzeb was only solicitous of the welfare of his Muslim subjects? As the historian Harbans Mukhia has argued, “Once one accepts that the liberal religious policy of Akbar was only the reflection of his own liberal outlook, the conclusion becomes inescapable, for instance, that the fanatic religious policy of Aurangzeb flowed from his fanatic disposition.” [6] If Aurangzeb sought to convert members of important Hindu families to Islam, all the more to ensure the preservation of his empire, why should that serve as a basis for the presumption that a wholesale conversion of Hindus was a matter of state policy? By what method of transference is it possible to construe that conflicts among the ruling elite are conflicts at the broader social level? In the debate over the nature of the Indian past, then, particularly with respect to Hindu-Muslim relations, Akbar and Aurangzeb were to become, as they still are, iconic figures.


[1] Tara Chand, History of the Freedom Movement, 4 vols (New Delhi: Government of India, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Publications Division, 1961-72), 1:111-12.

[2] Jawaharlal Nehru, The Discovery of India (Calcutta: Signet Press, 1946; reprint ed., Delhi: Oxford University Press/Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund, 1981), p. 270.

[3] Ibid., p. 265, 271; Tara Chand, History of the Freedom Movement, 1:112.

[4] J. Sarkar, History of Aurangzeb, 4 vols. (Calcutta, 1928), 3:249-50, cited by Satish Chandra, “Reassessing Aurangzeb”, Seminar, no. 364: Mythifying History (December 1989), p. 35.

[5] This paragraph draws upon M. Athar Ali, The Mughal Nobility Under Aurangzeb (Bombay: Asia Publishing House, 1968), pp. 30-32; Chandra, “Reassessing Aurangzeb”, pp. 35-38; and B. N. Pandey’s comments in Parliamentary Debates, Rajya Sabha, Vol. 102 (29 July 1977), col. 127. See also Sita Ram Goel, “Some historical questions”, Indian Express (16 April 1989), p. 8.

[6] Harbans Mukhia, “Medieval Indian History and the Communal Approach”, in Romila Thapar, Harbans Mukhia, and Bipan Chandra, Communalism and the Writing of Indian History (New Delhi: People’s Publishing House, 1969), p. 29.

Secular garb for Aurangzeb By A Surya Prakash

April 9, 2009

<!– Views : 247
–> April 30, 2008

By A Surya Prakash

Aided by an administration that is of late making anti-Hinduism an important component of state policy, a small group of Muslim bigots in Chennai disrupted an exhibition on Aurangzeb, the despotic ruler who destroyed hundreds of Hindu temples in the 17th century, including the most sacred shrines at Banaras and Mathura.

The story of the horrors perpetrated by this ruler in the name of Islam had been put together through pictures and drawings by the Foundation Against Continuing Terrorism (FACT). The man behind this initiative is François Gautier, a noted journalist and a trustee of FACT who is committed to salvaging truths about India’s ancient and medieval history from the garbage that is palmed off as history by a small group of pseudo-secular historians who subsist on the patronage of the Nehru-Gandhis and the Communists.

The exhibition, which has 40 paintings, show cases Akhbarats (edicts) issued by Aurangzeb. It has been viewed by over 100,000 people in other cities before it went to Chennai. The organisers were, therefore, shocked when Chennai Police forcibly closed the exhibition at the instance of a handful of protesters.

The exhibition was based on the work of eminent historians. The history of the reign of Aurangzeb, including the story of his cruel and oppressive conduct vis-à-vis the Hindus and the Sikhs, was first put together after a life-time of research into the edicts passed by him by Jadunath Sarkar, one of India’s greatest historians. Sarkar’s work on the Mughals — and thereafter the four volumes he wrote, especially on Aurangzeb — is considered the most definitive account of events of that time.

Sarkar translated Masir-i-Alamgiri — a history of the reign of Aurangzeb — by Saqi Mustad Khan. Khan’s narration was based on orders passed by Aurangzeb and material available in state archives in 1710. Sarkar also translated Akhbarats, which were essentially reports on the orders passed by Aurangzeb. In addition, there are other accounts like Mirat-i-Alam and Alamgir-Nama written by persons employed by Aurangzeb. Eliot and Dawson’s History of India as told by its own historians aggregates much of the work done by these historians.

There have been several other accounts, including the much-acclaimed series titled The History and Culture of the Indian People edited by the eminent historian RC Mazumdar and published by the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, and the monumental series on civilisation by Will Durant.

A common thread that runs through all these accounts is the zeal displayed by Aurangzeb to promote Islam and to crush other faiths. Here is a list of the atrocities committed by him, as narrated by historians employed by him: Aurangzeb issued an order on April 9, 1669 to the governors of the provinces, directing them “to demolish the schools and temples of the infidels and put down their teaching and religious practices strongly.

Besides innumerable temples throughout the empire, even the famous Hindu temples of Visvanath at Banaras, of Keshav Dev at Mathura, and Somnath at Patan were destroyed. Even the loyal state of Jaipur was not spared, and sixty-six temples were razed to the ground at Amber”. Ten years later, on April 2, 1679, he imposed jizya on Hindus. This was an oppressive, commutation tax that had to be paid by Hindus in order to be allowed to continue to practice their faith.

According to Sarkar, jizya was imposed by Aurangzeb “with the object of spreading Islam and overthrowing infidel practices”. Mazumdar says, “He felt gratified when many Hindus, unable to pay it, embraced Islam.” But, destruction of temples and jizya were just the tip of the iceberg. Various other measures were adopted to force Hindus to convert to Islam. Here is a list provided by Mazumdar in his series: In April 1665, Aurangzeb fixed Customs duty on goods imported into his kingdom at 2.5 per cent for Muslim merchants and five per cent for Hindu merchants. He offered Government jobs and commutation of prison terms for those who converted to Islam. In 1668, Aurangzeb prohibited all Hindu religious fairs. In 1671, he passed an order dismissing all Hindu head-clerks and accountants and hiring Muslims in their place.

In March 1695, he prohibited all Hindus, except Rajputs, from riding in palanquins or on elephants and also forbade them from carrying arms. Aurangzeb also went after the Sikhs with a vengeance. He ordered the destruction of Sikh places of worship and the expulsion of the Sikh Guru’s representatives from the cities. He imprisoned Guru Tegh Bahadur and killed him after torturing him for several days because he refused to convert to Islam. The attack on Sikhism continued during the tenure of the next Guru, Guru Govind Singh. His headquarters in Anandpur were attacked several times and his four sons were slain.

On Mathura, Masir-i-Alamgiri says, “During the month of Ramzan, the Emperor… issued for the demolition of the temple in Mathura. In a short time… the destruction of this strong foundation of infidelity was accomplished, and on its site a lofty mosque was built… The idols, large and small, set with costly jewels which had been set up in the temple were brought to Agra, and buried under the steps of the mosque of the Begum Sahib, in order to be continually trodden upon. The name of Mathura was changed to Islamabad.”

In recent times, a bunch of pseudo-secular or Marxist historians has been trying to bury these historical truths just as Aurangzeb buried the idols of Hindu gods at the entrances to the mosques that he built. They have also been attempting fraudulent and criminal misinterpretation of facts in order to paint even persons like Aurangzeb, who launched monstrous attacks on Hinduism and Sikhism, as “secular” beings. Some Muslim groups in the country have been abetting this pseudo-secular enterprise.

The attack on FACT’s exhibition in Chennai is the latest manifestation of this phenomenon — which is nothing but a renewed assault on truth and on Hinduism. The only answer to this is to take this exhibition to every nook and corner of the country and to publicise the Akhbarats of Aurangzeb’s time in every way possible. We cannot promote secularism by turning a blind eye to truth. We must freely discuss the communal agenda of rulers like Aurangzeb if only to show how barbaric the state can become when it is wedded to theocracy. That is how the citizens of India in the post-independence era will appreciate the value of democracy and genuine secularism and the basic structure of our Constitution.



April 9, 2009


Source: FACT India exhibition Detailed Exhibition

FACT, the Trust which I head, is doing an exhibition on ‘Aurangzeb as he was according to Moghol documents’ from 16th to 20th February in Habitat Center, New Delhi, Palm Court Gallery, from 10 AM to 9 PM.

Why an exhibition on Aurangzeb, some may ask ? Firstly, I have been a close student of Indian history and one of its most controversial figures has been Aurangzeb (1658-1707). It is true that under him the Moghol Empire reached its zenith, but Aurangzeb was a very cruel ruler ‘ some might even say monstrous. What are the facts? Aurangzeb did not just build an isolated mosque on a destroyed temple, he ordered all temples destroyed, among them the Kashi Vishvanath, one of the most sacred places of Hinduism and had mosques built on a number of cleared temples sites. All other Hindu sacred places within his reach equally suffered destruction, with mosques built on them. A few examples: Krishna’s birth temple in Mathura, the rebuilt Somnath temple on the coast of Gujurat, the Vishnu temple replaced with the Alamgir mosque now overlooking Benares and the Treta-ka-Thakur temple in Ayodhya. The number of temples destroyed by Aurangzeb is counted in 4, if not 5 figures. Aurangzeb did not stop at destroying temples, their users were also wiped-out; even his own brother, Dara Shikoh, was executed for taking an interest in Hindu religion and the Sikh Guru Tegh Bahadur was beheaded because he objected to Aurangzeb’s forced conversions.

Thus we thought we should go at the root of the matter. History (like journalism) is about documentation and first hand experience. We decided to show Aurangzeb according to his own documents. There are an incredible number of farhans, of original edicts of Aurangzeb, hand-written in Persian in India’s museums, particularly in Rajasthan, such as the Bikaner archives. It was not always easy to scan them, we encountered resistance, sometimes downright hostility and we had to go once to the CM to get permissions. Indeed the director of Bikaner archives told us that in 50 years, we were the first ones asking for these farhans dealing with Aurangzeb destructive deeds. Then we asked painters from Rajasthan to reproduce in the ancient Moghol style some of the edicts : the destruction of the Somnath temple, or the trampling of Hindus protesting jizya tax by Aurangzeb’s elephants, or the order from Aurangzeb prohibiting Hindus to ride horses and palanquins, or the beheading of Teg Bahadur and Dara Shikoh.

People might say: ‘ok, this is all true, Aurangzeb was indeed a monster, but why rake the past, when we have tensions between Muslims and Hindus today’ ? There are two reasons to this exhibition. The first one is that no nation can move forward unless its children are taught to look squarely at their own history, the good and the bad, the evil and the pure. The French for instance have many dark periods of their history, more recently some of the deeds they did during colonization in North Africa or how they collaborated with the Nazis during the 2d world war and handed over French Jews who died in concentration camps (French people are only coming to terms with it now).The argument that looking at one’s history will pit a community against the other does not hold either: French Catholics and Protestants, who share a very similar religion, fought bitterly each other. Catholics brutally murdered thousands of Protestants in the 18th century; yet today they lived peacefully next to each other. France fought three wars with Germany in the last 150 years, yet they are great friends today.

Let then Hindus and Muslims come to terms with what happened under Aurangzeb, because Muslims suffered as much as Hindus. It was not only Shah Jahan or Dara Shikoh who were murdered, but also the forefathers of today’s Indian Muslims who have been converted at 90%. Aurangzeb was the Hitler, the Asura of Medieval India. No street is named after Hitler in the West, yet in Delhi we have the Aurangzeb road, a constant reminder of the horrors Aurangzeb perpetrated against Indians, including against his own people.

Finally, Aurangzeb is very relevant today because he thought that Sunni Islam was the purest form of his religion and he sought to impose it with ruthless efficiency – even against those of his own faith, such as his brother. Aurangzeb clamped down on the more syncretic, more tolerant Islam, of the Sufi kind, which then existed in India.But he did not fully succeed. Four centuries later, is he going to have the last word ? I remember, when I started covering Kashmir in the late seventies, that Islam had a much more open face. The Kashmir Muslim, who is also a descendant of converted Hindus, might have thought that Allah was the only true God, but he accepted his Kashmir Pandit neighbor, went to his or her marriage, ate in his or her house and the Hindu in turn went to the mosque. Women used to walk with open faces, watch TV, films. Then the shadow of Aurangzeb fell again on Kashmir and the hard-line Sunnis came from Pakistan and Afghanistan : cinemas were banned, the burqua imposed, 400.000 Kashmiri Pandits were chased out of Kashmir by violence and became refugees in their own land and the last Sufi shrine of Srhar-e- Sharif was burnt to the ground (I was there). Today the Shariat law has been voted in Kashmir, a state of democratic, secular India,UP’s Muslims have applauded, and the entire Indian Media, which went up in flames when the Government wanted Vande Mataram to be sung, kept quiet. The spirit of Aurangzeb seems to triumph.

But what we need today in India – and indeed in the world – is a Dara Shikoh, who reintroduces an Islam which, while believing in the supremacy of its Prophet, not only accepts other faiths, but is also able to see the good in each religion, study them, maybe create a synthesis. Islam needs to adapt its scriptures which were created nearly 15 centuries ago for the people and customs of these times, but which are not necessarily relevant in some of their injunctions today. Kabir, Dara Shikoh and some of the Sufi saints attempted this task, but failed. Aurangzeb knew what he was doing when he had his own brother’s head cut. And we know what we are saying when we say that this exhibition is very relevant to today’s India

May the Spirit of Dara Shikoh come back to India and bring back Islam to a more tolerant human face.
François Gautier

Aurangzeb as he was according to Mughal Records

Aurangzeb, Emperor Shah Jahan’s sixth son, was born on 24th October 1618 at Dohad in Madhya Pradesh, and wrested India’s crown from his father before the end of June 1658, after defeating his brother Prince Dara Shukoh’s armies, first at Dharmat near Ujjain (15th April 1568) and the second, led by Dara himself, at Samugarh on 29th May 1658. The War of Succession to the richest throne in the world was practically over with this victory, and Aurangzeb secured his position by making Murad, his brother and accomplice in his impetuous pursuit for power, his prisoner, by treachery, on 25th June. He had already made his old father Emperor Shah Jahan a prisoner in the Agra Fort (8th June 1658).

Shah Jahan survived his confinement by nearly eight years and the disgraceful manner of his burial (Exhibit No.5)will ever remain a stigma on this unscrupulous son Aurangzeb’s advent to the throne in his father’s life time was not welcomed by the people of India, because of the treacherous manner it was achieved; , but public opinion became all the more hostile towards him when Prince Dara Shukoh, the favourite son of Shah Jahan, the translator of the Upanishads (Exhibit No.2), and a truly liberal and enlightened Musalman, was taken prisoner on the Indian border, as he was going to Persia. Dara was paraded in a most undignified manner on the streets of Delhi on 29th August 1659. The French Doctor, Bernier, was an eye-witness to the scene and was deeply moved by the popular sympathy for Dara (Exhibit No.3) which so much alarmed Aurangzeb that he contrived to have a decree from his Clerics announcing death-sentence for his elder brother on the charge of apostasy (Exhibit No.4).

Throughout the War of Succession, Aurangzeb had maintained that he was not interested in acquiring the throne and that his only object was to ward off the threat to Islam, which was inevitable in case Dara Shukoh came to power. Many, including his brother Murad, were deceived by this posture. After his formal accession in Delhi (5th June 1659) he posed as a defender of Islam who would rule according to the directions of the Shariat, and with the advice of the Clerics or Ulama for whom the doctrines, rules, principles and directives, as laid down and interpreted in the 7th and 8th century Arabia, Persia and Iraq, were inviolable and unchangeable in all conditions, in all countries, and for all times to come.

One of the main objectives of Aurangzeb’s policy was to demolish Hindu temples. When he ordered (13th October 1666)removal of the carved railing, which Prince Dara Shukoh had presented to Keshava Rai temple at Mathura, he had observed ‘In the religionof theMusalmans it is improper even to look at a temple’, and that it was totally unbecoming of a Muslim to act like Dara Shukoh (Exhibit No.6, Akhbarat, 13th October 1666). This was followed by destruction of the famous Kalka temple in Delhi (Exhibit No.6, 7, 8, Akhbarat, 3rd and 12th September 1667).

In 1669, shortly after the death of Mirza Raja Jai Singh of Amber, a general order was issued (9th April 1669) for the demolition of temples and established schools of the Hindus throughout the empire and banning public worship (Exhibit Nos.9 & 10). Soon after this the great temple of Keshava Rai was destroyed (Jan.-Feb. 1670) (Exhibit No.12) and in its place a lofty mosque was erected. The idols, the author of Maasir-i-Alamgiri informs, were carried to Agra and buried under the steps of the mosque built by Begum Sahiba in order to be continually trodden upon, and the name of Mathura was changed to Islamabad. The painting (Exhibit No.13) is thus no fancy imagination of the artist but depicts what actually took place.

This was followed by Aurangzeb’s order to demolish the highly venerated temple of Vishwanath at Banaras (Persian text, Exhibit No.11), Keshava Rai temple (Jan.-Feb. 1670) (Persian Text, exhibit No.12 and Painting, Exhibit No.13), and of Somanatha (Exhibit No.14).To save the idol of Shri Nathji from being desecrated, the Gosain carried it to Rajputana, where Maharana Raj Singh received it formally at Sihad village, assuring the priest that Aurangzeb would have to trample over the bodies of one lakh of his brave Rajputs, before he couldeven touch the idol (Exhibit No.15)

Aurangzeb’s zeal for temple destruction became much more intense during war conditions. The opportunity to earn religious merit by demolishing hundreds of temples soon came to him in 1679 when, after the death of Maharaja Jaswant Singh of Jodhpur in the Kabul Subah, he tried to eliminate the Rathors of Marwar as a political power in Rajputana. But Maharana Raj Singh of Mewar, in line with the great traditions of his House, came out in open support of the Rathors.. This led to war with both Mewar and Marwar during which the temples built on the bank of Rana’s lake were destroyed by his orders (Exhibit No.23, Akhbarat 23rd December 1679) and also about three hundred other temples in the environs of Udaipur. (Exhibit No.25, Text), including the famous Jagannath Rai temple built at a great cost in front of the Maharana’s palace which was bravely defended by a handful of Rajputs (Exhibit Nos.20, 21).

Not only this, when Aurangzeb visited Chittor to have a view of the famous fort, he ordered the demolition of 63 temples there which included some of the finest temples of Kumbha’s time (Exhibit No.22). From Marwar (in Western Rajasthan) alone were brought several cart-loads of idols which, as per Aurangzeb’s orders, were cast in the yard of the Court and under the steps of Jama Masjid (Exhibit No.19). Such uncivilized and arrogant conduct of the Mughal Emperor alienated Hindus for ever, though they continued to be tolerant towards his creed.

In June 1681, orders, in a laconic two-liner, were given for the demolition of the highly venerated Jagannath Temple in Orissa (Exhibit No.24, Akhbarat, 1st June 1681)., Shortly afterwards, in September 1682, the famous Bindu-Madhav temple in Banaras was also demolished as per the Emperor’s orders (Exhibit No.27, Akhbarat, Julus 26, Ramzan 20). On 1st September 1681, while proceeding to the Deccan, where his rebel son Prince Akbar, escorted by Durga Das Rathore, had joined Chhatrapati Shivaji’s son, Shambhaji, thus creating a serious problem for him, Aurangzeb ordered that all the temples on the way should be destroyed. It was a comprehensive order not distinguishing between old and newly built temples (Exhibit No.26, Akhbarat, Julus 25, Ramzan 18). But in the district of Burhanpur, where there were a large number of temples with their doors closed, he preferred to keep them as such, as the Muslims were too few in number in the district. (Exhibit No.28, Akhbarat 13th October 1681). In his religious frenzy, even temples of the loyal and friendly Amber state were not spared, such as the famous temple of Jagdish at Goner near Amber (Exhibit Nos.30, Akhbarat, 28th March and 14th May 1680). In fact, his misguided ardour for temple destruction did not abate almost up to the end of his life, for as late as 1st January 1705 we find him ordering that the temple of Pandharpur be demolished and the butchers of the camp be sent to slaughter cows in the temple precincts (Akhbarat 49-7).

The number of such ruthless acts of Aurangzeb make a long list but here only a few have been mentioned, supported by evidence, mostly contemporary official records of Aurangzeb’s period and by such credible Persian sources as Maasir-i-Alamgiri.

I In obedience to the Quranic injunction, he reimposed Jizyah on the Hindus on 2nd April 1679 (Exhibit No.16), which had been abolished by Emperor Akbar in 1564, causing widespread anger and resentment among the Hindus of the country .A massive peaceful demonstration against this tax in Delhi, was ruthlessly crushed (Exhibit No.17), This hated tax involved heavy economic burden on the vast number of the poor Hindus and caused humiliation to each and every Hindu (Exhibit No.18). In the same vein, were his discriminatory measures against Hindus in the form of exemption of the Muslims from the taxes (Exhibit No.31, Akhbarat 16th April 1667) ban on atishbazi and restriction on Diwali (Exhibit No.32), replacement of Hindu officials by Muslims so that the Emperor’s prayers for the welfare of Muslims and glory of Islam, which were proving ineffective, be answered (Exhibit Nos.33, 34). He also imposed a ban on ziyarat and gathering of the Hindus at religious shrines, such as of Shitla Mata and folk Gods like Pir Pabu (Exhibit No.35, Akhbarat 16th September 1667), another ban on their travelling in Palkis, or riding elephants and Arab-Iraqi horses, as Hindus should not carry themselves with the same dignity as the Muslims! (Exhibit No.36). In the same vein came brazen attempts to convert Hindus by inducement, coercion (Exhibit No.41) or by offering Qanungoship (Exhibit No.44, 45, 46) and to honour the converts in the open Court. His personal directions were that a Hindu male be given Rs.4 and a Hindu female Rs.2 on conversion (Exhibit No.43,Akhbarat 7th April 1685). ‘Go on giving them”, Aurangzeb had ordered when it was reported to him that the Faujdar of Bithur, Shaikh Abdul Momin, had converted 150 Hindus and had given them naqd (cash) and saropas (dresses of honour) (Exhibit No.40, Akhbarat, 11th April 1667). Such display of Islamic orthodoxy by the State under Aurangzeb gave strength and purpose to the resistance movements such as of the Marathas, the Jats, the Bundelas and the Sikhs (Exhibit No.46).

On the 12th May 1666, the dignity with which Shivaji carried himself in the Mughal court and defied the Emperor’s authority, won him spontaneous admiration of the masses. Parkaldas, an official of Amber (Jaipur State) wrote in his letter dated 29th May 1666, to his Diwan. ‘Now that after coming to the Emperor’s presence Shivaji has shown such audacity and returned harsh and strong replies, the public extols him for his bravery all the more …” (Exhibit No.37).When Shivaji passed away on April 1680 at the age of 53 only, he had already carved a sufficiently large kingdom, his Swarajya, both along the western coast and some important areas in the east as well.

Aurangzeb could never pardon himself for his Intelligence in letting i escapefrom his well laid trap and wrote in his Will (Exhibit No.48)that it made him ‘to labour hard (against the Marathas) to the end of my life (as a result of it)”. He did not realize that it was his own doing: the extremely cruel manner ‘ even for those times – in which he put to death Shivaji’ son, Shambhaji (Exhibit No.38)made the Maratha king a martyr in the eyes of the masses and with that commenced the People’ War in Maharashtra and the Deccan which dug the grave of the Mughal empire.

Till the very end Aurangzeb never understood that the main pillars of the government are the affection and support of the people and not mere compliance of the religious directives originating from a foreign land in the seventh-eighth centuries.

His death after a long and ruinous reign lasting half a century, ended an eventful epoch in the history of India . He left behind a crumbling empire, a corrupt and inefficient administration, a demoralized army, a discredited government facing public bankruptcy and alienated subjects.