Reality of Aurangzeb, The Tyrant

FACT, the Trust which I head, is holding an exhibition on ‘Aurangzeb as he was according to Mughal documents’, from February 16 to 20 at New Delhi’s Habitat Center, the 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 Mughal empire reached its zenith, but Aurangzeb was also 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 Vishwanath temple, one of the most sacred places of Hinduism, and had mosques built on a number of cleared temple sites. 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 Gujarat; 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 four, if not five 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; Sikh Guru Tegh Bahadur was beheaded because he objected to Aurangzeb’s forced conversions.

Yet, Percival Spear, co-author with Romila Thapar of the prestigious A History of India (Penguin), writes: ‘Aurangzeb’s supposed intolerance is little more than a hostile legend based on isolated acts such as the erection of a mosque on a temple site in Benares.’ L’histoire de l’Inde moderne (Fayard), the French equivalent of Percival Spear’s history of India, praises Aurangzeb and says, ‘He has been maligned by Hindu fundamentalists’. Even Indian politicians are ignorant of Aurangzeb’s evil deeds. Nehru might have known about them, but for his own reasons he chose to keep quiet and instructed his historians to downplay Aurangzeb’s destructive drive and instead praise him as a benefactor of arts.

Since then six generations of Marxist historians have done the same and betrayed their allegiance to truth. Very few people know for instance that Aurangzeb banned any kind of music and that painters had to flee his wrath and take refuge with some of Rajasthan’s friendly maharajahs.

Thus, we thought we should get 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, 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 chief minister to get permission. Indeed, the director of Bikaner archives told us that in 50 years we were the first ones asking for the farhans dealing with Aurangzeb’s destructive deeds. Then we asked painters from Rajasthan to reproduce in the ancient Mughal style some of the edicts: the destruction of Somnath temple; the trampling of Hindus protesting jaziya 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 up the past, when we have tensions between Muslims and Hindus today?’ There are two reasons for this exhibition. The first 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 in their history, more recently some of the deeds they did during colonisation in North Africa or how they collaborated with the Nazis during the Second World War and handed over French Jews who died in concentration camps (the French are only now coming to terms with it).

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 each other bitterly. Catholics brutally murdered thousands of Protestants in the 18th century; yet today they live peacefully next to each other. France fought three wars with Germany in the last 150 years, yet they are great friends today.

Let Hindus and Muslims then 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 per cent. Aurangzeb was the Hitler, the asura of medieval India. No street is named after Hitler in the West, yet in New Delhi we have Aurangzeb Road, a constant reminder of the horrors Aurangzeb perpetrated against Indians, including 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 ’70s, 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 Kashmiri Pandit neighbour, 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 on Kashmir and the hardliner Sunnis came from Pakistan and Afghanistan: cinemas were banned, the burqa imposed, 400,000 Kashmiri Pandits were chased out of Kashmir through violence and became refugees in their own land and the last Sufi shrine of Sharar-e-Sharif was burnt to the ground (I was there). Today the Shariat 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.

~ Francois Gauthier


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  • It is a shame to support such histories from the past, but it is always true that the one who is tolerant will always be successful,despite all hardships.

  • “गर्व से कहो हम हिन्दू हैँ”
    हिन्दू शेर की दहाड़:-
    हिन्दुओ के इलाके में जो
    मुस्लिम जमीन खरीद रहे है
    उस पर कब्जा करो ।
    उस पर बजरंग दल का बोर्ड लगा दो “प्रवीण तोगडिया”
    जो हिन्दू ज्यादा पैसे के लालच
    में हिन्दू इलाके में मुस्लिमो को
    जमीन बेचे उसका समाज से बहिस्कार
    व् उसकी ठुकाई अच्छी तरह से हो । #savehinduism #savetemples #sanatansewa #sanatan_sewa #kattarhindu #jairajpootana #jaishriram http://www.sanatansewa.blogspot.in

  • The ridiculous thing about these indoctrinated Marxist historians is they try to interpret the entire History of Mankind from Marx point of view. Marx was just one intellectual, not God ,not infallible. But these holier than Pope genre while denying existence of God seek to put Das Capita on the pedestal of Gods’ revelations. These great people have not been able to decipher a few shards of Indus valley civilisation for the last 150 years after their discovery, but weave a web of interpretations about everything. Allied to them is the theatre people. They proclaim during the times of Mahabharata , silk as fabric was unknown nor were grand palaces–as if they had witnessed all these. If they call Religion as opium of masses, then their doctrine is a coloured glass presenting a make believe world view which they seek to propagate. These semi blind fellows have done immeasurable damage more insidious than what British did, to our culture and heritage. It is time things are re written in impartial manner.

  • truth is hard to digest.. but its the truth that the mughals had caused mass destruction to the temples in india and to our heritage…all the hindus in india shoud be united to change bck india to be a hindu nation and bring bck the glory it once had…

  • Mogul invasion of Bharat was the most tragic era for south east Asia.. These invaders were ruthless murderers , some more than others, throughout their time in India. Their fate was the same way as history repeated itself at the end with British intervention / invasion in between.
    India today has come through as a strong diverse nation with democratic principles embedded in it`s constitution. History should be re written and buiding a strong nation should start from the grassroots.This is the most important task amongst many for newly formed BJP Govt. & PM Modi.

  • I agree with Ramesh Babu and Ratan Das. Not only the Mughals. but every body, West or East of India have been harassing the Hindus within India! Small Nations like Portugal, Spain, Netherland, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan in the past, Pakistan, BanglaDesh, Ceylon, Tibet(as claimed by China!)have either invaded India or have been hating the Hindus! Only some of us feel this as a great Insult to Hinduism in India. Majority of the population is unmoved! Our Officialdom-be it the executive or the Judiciary or the Election Commission-,the Media and the self proclaimed social Reformers, indoctrinated by the West, the East and the Glamor of Power and immediate material comforts has no attachment for our Sanatana Dharma ; they can question and dismiss every thing of Hinduism as fiction, not supported by documents or ‘historical’ evidences or ‘Scientific approaches’! Unless we-every Hindu- become strong economically, physically and socially, nobody will hear to us. We get lip Sympathy only.And our huge number, about a hundred Crores, and terms like ‘World’s largest Democracy’ have no real impact! We can not get a permanent seat, with Veto Power, in the UN Security Council, while much smaller Nations have! None from amongst us, who criticise JawaharLal Nehru now, could anticipate, at that time, the problems and offer him solutions then! Other people, use his name for their own personal gains. This is what we, the proponents of Hinduism and Sanatana Dharma! Wish all our people, HAPPY VIJAYADASAMI!!

  • I firmly believe that Aurangzeb was right for what he has done against Shah Jahan and his brothers; rest he was on the same path as other mughals. But at the end he confessed for the sins in his will; in which he asked his burial to remain open.

  • Akbar was saved by a Hindu Guru by Name VADHIRAJAGURUGALU from un-timely death : He did not realise that a progeny of Akbar, one day destroy HINDUISM : Aurengzeb was the known Enemy of Hindus, He was a TRUE MUSLIM : He killed Kafirs and destroyed their gods,housed in temples.(Vedic religion did not belive in IDOL WorshippinG) Korran says to kill NON-Believers : & he just did that : There is no point in blaming him for a firm belief in Korran : It is the Hindu Kings,who were responsible for this state of affairs: Hindus had no strong faith in their Religion ,they embrased the egalitarian religion,that brought in FRESH AIR to this continent;Auregazeb was a great ruler,he united India,gave a strong central govt / administration,which Hindus had not seen till then///

  • I cannot understand why ‘such’ history should not be supported. History is not the imagination or creation of a fool but a record of events and people of the time. If people hide it, it is with an ‘intention’. History must be known as it happened, politics, personalities and circumstances must be left to be interpreted. I think it is dishonesty to prevent people from knowing the truth or alter the history to give wrong direction. If people can improve it is in the light of wrongs committed in the past. If people can change it is only keeping in perspective.
    Romilla Thapar were hired forgers of history. Not genuine analysts or commentators. Shame !

  • Among us hindus…certain people think that if we loudly say…we are hindu…means we are communal. If the same in case of muslim…he is secular. So now its a trend to gain votes, popularity by becoming against hindu and become pro muslim. Thatswhy..people are organising exhibition on aurangazed, naming streets on him. Lets do a comparative…in pakistan…lets count the number of streets named after any hindu…and do the same in India. This statistics will answer…how much we hindus are hypocratic.

  • I saw a history Crash Course video that was trying to provide “context” to Aurangzeb’s jihad.

    Banishing dancers and banning music because its un-Islamic was a cost cutting measure, forcing Jizya religious tax on Hindus was to boost cash-strapped coffers.

    How would they rationalize the half million Mughal soldier, 27 Year Maratha-Mughal War that finally brought Mughals to their knees?