Military Wiki
Aurangzeb seated on the Peacock Throne.
Preceded by Shah Jahan
Succeeded by Muhammad Azam Shah
Personal details
Born (1618-11-04)4 November 1618 (N.S.)
Dahod, Mughal Empire
Died 3 March 1707(1707-03-03) (aged 88)
Ahmednagar, Mughal Empire
Spouse(s) Dilras Banu Begum
Religion Islam

Abul Muzaffar Muhi-ud-Din Mohammad Aurangzeb, (4 November 1618 – 3 March 1707) commonly known as Aurangzeb and by his imperial title Alamgir ("world-seizer or universe-seizer") was the sixth Mughal Emperor and ruled over most of the Indian subcontinent. His reign lasted for 49 years from 1658 until his death in 1707. Aurangzeb was a notable expansionist and during his reign, the Mughal Empire reached its greatest extent. He was among the wealthiest of the Mughal rulers with an annual yearly tribute of £38,624,680 (in 1690).[citation needed] He was a pious Muslim, and his policies partly abandoned the legacy of Akbar's secularism, which remains a very controversial aspect of his reign. During his lifetime, victories in the south expanded the Mughal Empire to more than 3.2 million square kilometres and he ruled over a population estimated as being in the range of 100–150 million subjects. He was a strong and effective ruler, but with his death the great period of the Mughal dynasty came to an end, and central control of the sub-continent declined rapidly.

Early life

A painting from circa 1637 shows the brothers (left to right) Shah Shuja, Aurangzeb and Murad Baksh in their younger years.

Aurangzeb was born on 4 November 1618, in Dahod, Gujarat. He was the third son and sixth child of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal. His father was a governor of Gujarat at that time. In June 1626, after an unsuccessful rebellion by his father, Aurangzeb and his brother Dara Shikoh were kept as hostages under their grandparents' (Nur Jahan and Jahangir) Lahore court. On 26 February 1628, Shah Jahan was officially declared the Mughal Emperor, and Aurangzeb returned to live with his parents at Agra Fort, where Aurangzeb received his formal education in Arabic and Persian. His daily allowance were fixed to INR 500, and while he spent his allowance on religious education and the study of history. He also accused his brothers of alcoholism and womanising.[citation needed]

On 28 May 1633 Aurangzeb escaped death when a powerful war elephant stampeded through the Mughal Imperial encampment. He rode against the elephant and struck its trunk with a lance,[1] and successfully defended himself from being crushed. Aurnagzeb's valour was appreciated by his father who conferred him with the title Bahadur (Brave) and had him weighed in gold and presented gifts worth INR 200,000. This event was celebrated in Persian and Urdu verses and Aurangzeb said:[2]

If the (elephant) fight had ended fatally for me it would not have been a matter of shame. Death drops the curtain even on Emperors; it is no dishonor. The shame lay in what my brothers did!


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Aurangzeb's childhood teachers included Muhammad Saleh Kamboh. Aurangzeb had a keen mind and learned quickly from his reading. He learned the Quran and the hadith very early and could readily quote from them. He mastered Arabic and Persian languages and learned Chagatai Turkic during his tenure at Kandahar Province. Aurangzeb was a prolific writer of letters and commentaries on petitions. He wrote Arabic with a vigorous calligraphy. Two richly bound and illuminated manuscripts written by him are located in Mecca and Medina, with another copy preserved in Nizamuddin Auliya Dargah.

Rise to throne

Bundela War

The Mughal Army under the command of Aurangzeb recaptures Orchha in October 1635.

On 15 December 1634, Aurangzeb was given his first command, comprising 10,000 horse and 4000 troopers. He was allowed to use the red tent, which was an imperial prerogative.[citation needed]

Subsequently, Aurangzeb was nominally in charge of the force sent to Bundelkhand with the intent of subduing the rebellious Bundela leader, Jujhar Singh, who had attacked another territory in defiance of Shah Jahan's policy and was refusing to atone for his actions.[3] By arrangement, Aurangzeb stayed in the rear, away from the fighting, and took the advice of his generals as the Mughal Army gathered and commenced the Siege of Orchha in 1635.[citation needed] The campaign was successful and Singh was removed from power.[3]


A painting from Padshahnama depicts Prince Aurangzeb facing a maddened war elephant named Sudhakar.[4]

Aurangzeb took up his new post as the Viceroy of the Deccan in 1636.[5] After Shah Jahan's vassals had been devastated by the alarming expansion of Ahmednagar during the reign of the Nizam Shahi boy-prince Murtaza Shah III, the emperor dispatched Aurangzeb, who in 1636 brought the Nizam Shahi dynasty to an end.[6] In 1637, Aurangzeb married the Safavid princess, Dilras Banu Begum, also known as Rabia-ud-Daurani. She was his first wife and chief consort.[7][8] He also had an infatuation with a slave girl, Hira Bai — whose death at a young age greatly affected him. In his old age, he was under the charms of his concubine, Udaipuri Bai. The latter had formerly been a companion to Dara Shikoh.[9] In the same year, 1637, Aurangzeb was placed in charge of annexing the small Rajput kingdom of Baglana, which was achieved with ease.[10]

In 1644, Aurangzeb's sister, Jahanara, was burned when the chemicals in her perfume were ignited by a nearby lamp while in Agra. This event precipitated a family crisis with political consequences. Aurangzeb suffered his father's displeasure when he returned to Agra three weeks after the event, instead of immediately. Shah Jahan had been nursing Jahanara back to health in that time and thousands of vassals had arrived in Agra to pay their respects.[citation needed]Shah Jahan was outraged to see Aurangzeb enter the interior palace compound in military attire and immediately dismissed him from his position of Viceroy of the Deccan; Aurangzeb was also no longer allowed to use red tents, with that privilege being handed to Dara Shikoh, or to associate himself with the official military standard of the Mughal emperor.[citation needed]

In 1645, he was barred from the court for seven months and mentioned his grief to fellow Mughal commanders. Thereafter, Shah Jahan appointed him governor of Gujarat where he served well and was rewarded for bringing stability.[citation needed] In 1647, Shah Jahan moved him from Gujarat to be governor of Balkh, replacing Aurangzeb's younger brother, Murad Baksh, who had proved ineffective there. The area was under attack from Uzbek and Turkoman tribes. Whilst the Mughal artillery and muskets were a formidable force, so too were the skirmishing skills of their opponents. The two sides were in stalemate and Aurangzeb discovered that his army could not live off the land, which was devastated by war. With the onset of winter, he and his father had to make a largely unsatisfactory deal with the Uzbeks, giving away territory in exchange for nominal recognition of Mughal sovereignty. The Mughal force suffered still further with attacks by Uzbeks and other tribesmen as it retreated through snow to Kabul. By the end of this two-year campaign, into which Aurangzeb had been plunged at a late stage, a vast sum of money had been expended for little gain.[11]

Further inauspicious military involvements followed, as Aurangzeb was appointed governor of Multan and Sindh. His efforts in 1649 and 1652 to dislodge the Safavids at Kandahar, which they had recently retaken after a decade of Mughal control, both ended in failure as winter approached. The logistical problems of supplying an army at the extremity of the empire, combined with the poor quality of armaments and the intransigence of the opposition have been cited by John Richards as the reasons for failure, and a third attempt in 1653, led by Dara Shikoh, met with the same outcome.[12]

Dara Shikoh's appointment followed the removal of Aurangzeb, who once again took the role of viceroy in the Deccan. He regretted this and harboured feelings that Dara had manipulated the situation to serve his own ends. Aurangbad's two jagirs (land grants) were moved there as a consequence of his return and, because the Deccan was a relatively impoverished area, this caused him to lose out financially. So poor was the area that grants were required from Malwa and Gujarat in order to maintain the administration and the situation caused ill-feeling between father and son. Shah Jahan insisted that things could be improved if Aurangzeb made efforts to develop cultivation, but the efforts that were made proved too slow in producing results to satisfy the emperor.[13]

Aurangzeb proposed to resolve the situation by attacking the dynastic occupants of Golconda (the Qutb Shahis) and Bijapur (the Adil Shahis). As an adjunct to resolving the financial difficulties, the proposal would also extend Mughal influence by accruing more lands. Again, he was to feel that Dara had exerted influence on his father: believing that he was on the verge of victory in both instances, Aurangzeb was frustrated that Shah Jahan chose then to settle for negotiations with the opposing forces rather than pushing for complete victory.[13]

War of Succession

Sepoys loyal to the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb maintain their positions around the palace, at Aurangabad, in 1658.

The four sons of Shah Jahan all held posts as governors during the lifetime of their father. The emperor favoured the eldest, Dara Shikoh, and this had caused resentment among the younger three, who sought at various times to strengthen alliances between themselves and against Dara. There was no Muslim tradition of primogeniture and historian Satish Chandra says that "In the ultimate resort, connections among the powerful military leaders, and military strength and capacity [were] the real arbiters."[13] Jacques Weber, emeritus professor of modern history at the University of Nantes,[14] explains that "... the loyalties of these officials seem to have been motivated more by their own interests, the closeness of the family relation and above all the charisma of the pretenders than by ideological divides."[15] The contest for power was primarily between Dara Shikoh and Auragnzeb because, although all four sons had demonstrated competence in their official roles, it was around these two that the supporting cast of officials and other influential people mostly circulated.[16] There were ideological differences — Dara was an intellectual and a religious liberal in the mould of Akbar, while Aurangzeb was much more conservative — but, as historians Barbara D. Metcalf and Thomas R. Metcalf say, "To focus on divergent philosophies neglects the fact that Dara was a poor general and leader. It also ignores the fact that factional lines in the succession dispute were not, by and large, shaped by ideology ..."[17] Muslims and Hindus did not divide along religious lines in their support for one pretender or the other nor, according to Chandra, is there much evidence to support the belief that Jahanara and other members of the royal family were split in their support. Jahanara, certainly, interceded at various times on behalf of all of the princes and was well-regarded by Aurangzeb even though she shared the religious outlook of Dara.[18]

Having made clear that he wanted Dara to succeed him, Shah Jahan became ill with stranguary in 1657 and was closeted under the care of his favourite son in the newly built city of Shahjahanabad (Old Delhi). Rumours of the death of Shah Jahan abounded and the younger sons were concerned that Dara might be hiding it for Machiavellian reasons. Thus, they took action: Shah Shuja prepared to contest the throne from Bengal, where he had been governor since 1637, while Murad did the same in his governorship of Gujarat and Aurangzeb did so in the Deccan. It is not known whether these preparations were made in the mistaken belief that the rumours of death were true or whether the challengers were just taking advantage of the situation.[13]

Aurangzeb becomes emperor.

After regaining some of his health, Shah Jahan moved to Agra and Dara urged him to send forces to challenge Shah Shuja and Murad, who had declared themselves rulers in their respective territories. While Shah Shuja was defeated at Banares in February 1658, the army sent to deal with Murad discovered to their surprise that he and Aurangzeb had combined their forces,[18] the two brothers having agreed to partition the empire once they had gained control of it.[19] The two armies clashed at Dharmat in April 1658, with Aurangzeb being the victor. Shuja was being chased through Bihar and the victory of Aurangzeb proved this to be a poor decision by Dara Shikoh, who now had a defeated force on one front and a successful force unnecessarily pre-occupied on another. Realising that his recalled Bihar forces would not arrive at Agra in time to resist the emboldened Aurangzeb's advance, Dara scrambled to form alliances in order but found that Aurangzeb had already courted key potential candidates. When Dara's disparate, hastily concocted army clashed with Aurangzeb's well-disciplined, battle-hardened force at the Battle of Samugarh in late May, neither Dara's men nor his generalship were any match for Aurangzeb. Dara had also become over-confident in his own abilities and, by ignoring advice not to lead in battle while his father was alive, he cemented the idea that he had usurped the throne.[18] Within days, on 8 June 1658, Aurangzeb took control of the nearby capital of Agra and placed his father under arrest.

Aurangzeb then broke his arrangement with Murad Baksh, which probably had been his intention all along.[19] Instead of looking to partition the empire between himself and Murad, he had his brother arrested and imprisoned at Gwalior Fort. Murad was executed on 4 December 1661, ostensibly for the murder of the diwan of Gujarat some time earlier. The allegation was encouraged by Aurangzeb, who caused the diwan's son to seek retribution for the death under the principles of Sharia law.[20] Meanwhile, Dara gathered his forces, and moved to the Punjab. The army sent against Shuja was trapped in the east, its generals Jai Singh and Dilir Khan submitted to Aurangzeb, but Dara's son, Suleiman Shikoh, escaped. Aurangzeb offered Shah Shuja the governorship of Bengal. This move had the effect of isolating Dara Shikoh and causing more troops to defect to Aurangzeb. Shah Shuja, who had declared himself emperor in Bengal began to annex more territory and this prompted Aurangzeb to march from Punjab with a new and large army that fought during the Battle of Khajwa, where Shah Shuja and his chain-mail armored war elephants were routed by the forces loyal to Aurangzeb. Shah Shuja then fled to Arakan (in present-day Burma), where he was executed by the local rulers.[21]

With Shuja and Murad disposed of, and with his father Shah Jahan immured in Agra, Aurangzeb pursued Dara Shikoh, chasing him across the north-western bounds of the empire. Aurangzeb claimed that Dara was no longer a Muslim and accused him of poisoning the Mughal Grand Vizier Saadullah Khan. Both of these statements however lacked any evidence.[citation needed] After a series of battles, defeats and retreats, Dara was betrayed by one of his generals, who arrested and bound him. In 1658, Aurangzeb arranged his formal coronation in Delhi. He had Dara Shikoh openly marched in chains back to Delhi where he had him executed on arrival on 30 August 1659.[citation needed]

Having secured his position, Aurangzeb confined his frail father, Shah Jahan, at the Agra Fort but did not mistreat him. Shah Jahan was cared for by Jahanara and died in 1666.[19]



Manuscript Quran, parts of which are believed to have been written in Aurangzeb's own hand.[22]

The Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb is known to have patronized works of Islamic Calligraphy during his reign particularly Syed Ali Tabrizi.[23]


Unlike his father, Aurangzeb was not much interested in architecture. The largest structure that he had to his credit is the Bibi Ka Maqbara in Aurangabad, which he commissioned in 1660 in the memory of his first wife, Dilras Banu Begum.[24] Aurangzeb also ordered the construction of the Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, which for 313 years was the world's largest mosque. Aurangzeb constructed a small marble mosque known as the Moti Masjid (Pearl Mosque) in the Red Fort complex in Delhi. He also constructed a mosque on Benares. The mosque he constructed in Srinagar is still the largest in Kashmir.

Establishment of Islamic law

Historian Katherine Brown has noted that "The very name of Aurangzeb seems to act in the popular imagination as a signifier of politico-religious bigotry and repression, regardless of historical accuracy." The subject is controversial and, despite no proof, has resonated in modern times with popularly accepted claims that he intended to destroy the Bamiyan Buddhas centuries before the Taliban did so.[25] As a political and religious conservative, Aurangzeb chose not to follow the liberal religious viewpoints of his predecessors after his ascension. Shah Jahan had already moved away from the liberalism of Akbar, although in a token manner rather than with the intent of suppressing Hinduism,[26][lower-alpha 1] and Aurangzeb took the change still further.[27] Though the approach to faith of Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan was more syncretic than Babur, the founder of the empire, Aurangzeb's position is not so obvious though his conservative interpretation of Islam and belief in the Sharia (Islamic law) is well documented.[citation needed] Despite claims of sweeping edicts and policies, contradictory accounts exist.[28] He sought to codify Hanafi law by the work of several hundred jurists, called Fatawa-e-Alamgiri.[28] It is possible the War of Succession and continued incursions combined with Shah Jahan's spending made cultural expenditure impossible.[29]

Aurangzeb compiled Hanafi law by introducing the Fatawa-e-Alamgiri.

Aurangzeb's portrait

As emperor, Aurangzeb enforced morals and banned the consumption, usage and practices of: alcoholism, gambling, castration, servitude, eunuchs, music, nautch and narcotics in the Mughal Empire.[citation needed] He learnt that at Sindh, Multan, Thatta and particularly at Varanasi, the Hindu Brahmins attracted large numbers of indigenous local Muslims to their discourses. He ordered the Subahdars of these provinces to demolish the schools and the temples of non-Muslims.[30] Aurangzeb also ordered Subahdars to punish Muslims who dressed like non-Muslims, regardless of their ethnic backgrounds.[citation needed] The executions of the antinomian Sufi mystic Sarmad Kashani and the ninth Sikh Guru Tegh Bahadur bear testimony to Aurangzeb's religious intolerance: the former being beheaded on multiple accounts of heresy,[lower-alpha 2] the latter because he objected to Aurangzeb's forced conversions.[31]

Another instance of Aurangzeb's notoriety was his policy of temple destruction, for which figures vary wildly from 80 to 60,000.[32] Indian historian Harbans Mukhia wrote that "In the end, as recently recorded in Richard Eaton's careful tabulation, some 80 temples were demolished between 1192 and 1760 (15 in Aurangzeb's reign) and he compares this figure with the claim of 60,000 demolitions, advanced rather nonchalantly by 'Hindu nationalist' propagandists,' although even in that camp professional historians are slightly more moderate."[30] Among the Hindu temples he demolished were the three most sacred: the Kashi Vishwanath temple, Kesava Deo temple and Somnath temple. He built large mosques in their place.[30] In 1679, he ordered destruction of several prominent temples that had become associated with his enemies: these included the temples of Khandela, Udaipur, Chittor and Jodhpur.[33] Historian Richard Eaton believes the overall understanding of temples to be flawed. As early as the sixth century, temples became vital political landmarks as well as religious ones. He writes that not only was temple desecration widely practised and accepted, it was a necessary part of political struggle.[33]

Francois Bernier, who traveled and chronicled Mughal India during the War of Succession, notes the distaste of both Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb for Christians. This led to the demolition of Christian settlements near the European factories and enslavement of Christian converts by Shah Jahan. Furthermore, Aurangzeb stopped all the aid to Christian missionaries (Frankish Padres) that had been initiated by Akbar and Jahangir.[34][page needed]

Ram Puniyani states that Aurangzeb was not always fanatically anti-Hindu, and kept changing his policies depending on the needs of the situation. He banned the construction of new temples, but permitted the repair and maintenance of existing temples. He also made generous donations of jagirs to several temples to win the sympathies of his Hindu subjects. There are several firmans (orders) in his name, supporting temples and gurudwaras, including Mahakaleshwar temple of Ujjain, Balaji temple of Chitrakoot, Umananda Temple (Guwahiat) and the Shatrunjaya Jain temples.[35]

Execution of opponents

The first prominent execution during the long reign of Aurangzeb started with that of his brother Prince Dara Shikoh, who was branded a Non-Muslim without formal evidence. Aurnagzeb also executed his allied brother Prince Murad Baksh. Aurangzeb is accused of poisoning his imprisoned nephew Sulaiman Shikoh.

Aurangzeb then executed Sarmad Kashani a controversial Sufi mystic of Jewish origins.

Aurangzeb ordered the execution of Muhammad Aqil on a charge of highway robbery, without formal trial by a Qadi of the Mughal Empire.

Later onward Aurangzeb executed Sambhaji the leader of the Maratha Confederacy, during his trial he was accused of war crimes during his raid of Burhanpur by the Mughal imperial authorities he was also found guilty of condoning casual rape and violence that were committed by Maratha's under his command.[36]

The Sikh leader Guru Tegh Bahadur was executed by Aurangzeb, according to Mughal sources for referring to himself as the "Sacha Badshah" (True King). Furthermore, Guru Gobind Singh children were executed by the Mughal Army.

Expansion of the Mughal Empire

Throughout his reign, Aurangzeb engaged in almost constant warfare. He built up a massive army and began a program of military expansion along all the boundaries of his empire. He pushed north-west into the Punjab and also drove south, conquering two further Muslim kingdoms[citation needed] - the Adil Shahis of Bijapur and Qutbshahis of Golconda — to add to the defeat of the Ahmednagar Sultanate that had been accomplished in 1636 while he had been viceroy of the Deccan. These new territories were administered by the Mughal Nawabs loyal to Aurangzeb.[citation needed]

Aurangzeb seated on a golden throne holding a Hawk in the Durbar. Standing before him is his son, Azam Shah.

Soon after seizing the throne, Aurangzeb began advancements against the unruly Sultan of Bijapur and during 1657, the Mughals are known to have utilized rockets during the Siege of Bidar, against Sidi Marjan.[39][page needed] Aurangzeb's forces discharged rockets and grenades while scaling the walls, and Sidi Marjan himself was mortally wounded after a rocket struck his large gunpowder depot. After twenty-seven days of hard fighting, Bidar was captured by the Mughals.[39]

In 1663, during his visit to Ladakh, Aurangzeb established direct control over that part of the empire and loyal subjects such as Deldan Namgyal agreed to pledge tribute and loyalty. Deldan Namgyal is also known to have constructed a Grand Mosque in Leh, which he dedicated to Mughal rule.[40]

In 1664, Shaista Khan (the son of Asaf Khan IV), was appointed the Subedar of Bengal. He immediately eliminated Portuguese and Arakanese pirates from the region, and in 1666 led an army of 70,000 men to recapture the port of Chittagong from the Arakanese king Sanda Thudhamma. Chittagong remained a key port throughout Mughal rule.[41][page needed]

In 1685, Aurangzeb dispatched his son, Muhammad Azam Shah, with a force of nearly 50,000 men to capture Bijapur Fort and defeat Sikandar Adil Shah (the ruler of Bijapur) who refused to be a vassal. The Mughals could not make any advancements upon Bijapur Fort mainly due to the superior usage of cannon batteries on both sides. Outraged by the stalemate Aurangzeb himself arrived on 4 September 1686 and commanded the Siege of Bijapur; after eight days of fighting, the Mughals were victorious.[citation needed]

Only one remaining ruler, Abul Hasan Qutb Shah (the Qutbshahi ruler of Golconda), refused to surrender. He and his servicemen fortified themselves at Golconda and fiercely protected the Kollur Mine, which was then probably the world's most productive diamond mine, and an important economc asset. In 1687, Aurangzeb led his grand Mughal army against the Deccan Qutbshahi fortress during the Siege of Golconda. The Qutbshahis had constructed massive fortifications throughout successive generations on a granite hill over 400 ft high with an enormous eight-mile long wall enclosing the city. The main gates of Golconda had the ability to repulse any war elephant attack. Although the Qutbshahis maintained the impregnability of their walls, at night Aurangzeb and his infantry erected complex scaffolding that allowed them to scale the high walls. During the eight-month siege the Mughals faced many hardships including the death of their experienced commander Kilich Khan Bahadur. Eventually, Aurangzeb and his forces managed to penetrate the walls by capturing a gate; their entry into the fort led Abul Hasan Qutb Shah to surrender peacefully and hand over his considerable treasure.

Military equipment

Mughal cannon making skills advanced during the 17th century.[42] One of the most impressive Mughal cannons is known as the Zafarbaksh, which is a very rare composite cannon, that required skills in both wrought-iron forge welding and bronze-casting technologies and the in-depth knowledge of the qualities of both metals.[43][full citation needed] Aurangzeb military entourage consisted of 16 cannons including the Azdaha Paikar (which, was capable of firing a 33.5 kg ordnance)[44] and Fateh Rahber (20 feet long with Persian and Arabic inscriptions).

The Ibrahim Rauza was also a famed cannon, which was well known for its multi-barrels.[45] François Bernier, the personal physician to Aurangzeb, observed versatile Mughal gun-carriages each drawn by two horses.[46]

Despite these innovations, most soldiers used bows and arrows, the quality of sword manufacture was so poor that they preferred to use ones imported from England, and the operation of the cannons was entrusted not to Mughals but to European gunners. Other weapons used during the period included rockets, cauldrons of boiling oil, muskets and manjaniqs (stone-throwing catapults).[47]

Foreign relations

The Mughal impeiral palace at Delhi (1701-1708), made by Johann Melchior Dinglinger.[48]

As soon as he became emperor, Aurangzeb sent some of the finest ornate gifts such as carpets, lamps, tiles and others to the Islamic shrines at Mecca and Medina. He also ordered the construction of very large ships in Surat that would transport these gifts and even pilgrims to the Hijaz. These annual expeditions organized by Aurangzeb were led by Mir Aziz Badakhshi who died in Mecca of natural causes but managed to deliver more than 45,000 gold and silver coins, jewels and several thousand Kaftans of honor.[49][page needed]

Relations with the Uzbek

Subhan Quli, Balkh's Uzbek ruler was the first to recognize him in 1658 and requested for a general alliance, he worked alongside the new Mughal Emperor since 1647 when Aurangzeb was the Subedar of Balkh.

Relations with the Safavid dynasty

Aurangzeb received the embassy of Abbas II of Persia in 1660 and returned them with gifts. However relations between the Mughal Empire and the Safavid dynasty were tense because the Persians attacked the Mughal army positioned near Kandahar. Aurangzeb prepared his armies in the Indus River Basin for a counteroffensive, but Abbas II's death in 1666 caused Aurangzeb to end all hostilities. Aurangzeb's rebellious son, Sultan Muhammad Akbar, sought refuge with Suleiman I of Persia, who had rescued the him from the Imam of Musqat and later refused to assist him in any military adventures against Aurangzeb.[50]

Relations with the French

In the year 1667 the French East India Company ambassadors Le Gouz and Bebert presented Louis XIV of France's letter which urged the protection of French merchants from various rebels in the Deccan. In response to the letter Aurangzeb issued a Firman allowing the French to open a factory in Surat.

Relations with the Sultanate of Maldives

In the 1660s, the Sultan of the Maldives, Ibrahim Iskandar I, requested help from Aurangzeb's representative, the Faujdar of Balasore. The sultan was concerned about the impact of Dutch and English trading ships but the powers of Aurangzeb did not extend to the seas, the Maldives were not under his governance and nothing came of the request.[51]

Relations with the Ottoman Empire

In 1688 the desperate Ottoman Sultan Suleiman II urgently requested for assistance against the rapidly advancing Austrians, during the Ottoman–Habsburg War. However, Aurangzeb and his forces were heavily engaged in the Deccan Wars against the Marathas to commit any formal assistance to their Ottoman allies.[49][page needed]

Relations with Ceylon

In the year 1703, the Mughal commander at Coromandel, Daud Khan Panni spent 10,500 coins to purchase 30 to 50 War elephants from Ceylon.[52]

Relations with the English

A member of the English East India Company requests pardon from Aurangzeb during the Child's War.

In 1686, the English East India Company, which had unsuccessfully tried to obtain a firman, an imperial directive that would grant England regular trading privileges throughout the Mughal empire, initiated the so-called Child's War. This hostility against the empire ended in disaster for the English, particularly when Aurangzeb dispatched a strong fleet from Janjira commanded by the Sidi Yaqub and manned by Mappila loyal to Ali Raja Ali II and Abyssinian sailors firmly blockaded Bombay in 1689.[53][page needed] In 1690 the company sent envoys to Aurangzeb's camp to plead for a pardon. The company's envoys had to prostrate themselves before the emperor, pay a large indemnity, and promise better behavior in the future.

In September 1695, English pirate Henry Every perpetrated one of the most profitable pirate raids in history with his capture of a Grand Mughal convoy near Surat. The Indian ships had been returning home from their annual pilgrimage to Mecca when the pirates struck, capturing the Ganj-i-Sawai, reportedly the greatest ship in the Muslim fleet, and its escorts in the process. When news of the piracy reached the mainland, a livid Aurangzeb nearly ordered an armed attack against the English-governed city of Bombay, though he finally agreed to compromise after the East India Company promised to pay financial reparations, estimated at £600,000 by the Mughal authorities.[54] Meanwhile, Aurangzeb shut down four of the East India Company's factories, imprisoned the workers and captains (who were nearly lynched by a rioting mob), and threatened to put an end to all English trading in India until Every was captured.[54] The Privy Council and East India Company offered a massive bounty for Every's apprehension, leading to the first worldwide manhunt in recorded history.[55] However, Every successfully eluded capture.[citation needed]

In 1702, Aurangzeb sent Daud Khan Panni, the Mughal Empire's Subhedar of the Carnatic region, to besiege and blockade Fort St. George for more than three months.[56] The governor of the fort Thomas Pitt was instructed by the English East India Company to sue for peace.

Administrative reforms


By 1690, Aurangzeb was acknowledged as: "emperor of India from Cape Comorin to Kabul".[57]

Aurangzeb's exchequer raised a record[citation needed] £100 million in annual revenue through various sources like taxes, customs and land revenue, et al. from 24 provinces.[58]

No. Province Land Revenue (1697) Notes
 – Total £38,624,680
1 Bijapur £5,000,000
2 Golconda £5,000,000
3 Bengal £4,000,000
4 Gujarat £2,339,500
5 Lahore £2,330,500
6 Agra £2,220,355
7 Ajmere £2,190,000
8 Ujjain £2,000,000
9 Deccan £1,620,475
10 Berar £1,580,750
11 Delhi £1,255,000
12 Behar £1,215,000
13 Khandesh £1,110,500
14 Rajmahal £1,005,000
15 Malwa £990,625
16 Allahabad £773,800
17 Nandair £720,000
18 Baglana £688,500
19 Thatta £600,200
20 Orissa £570,750
21 Multan £502,500
22 Kashmir £350,500
23 Kabul £320,725
24 Sukkur £240,000


Aurangzeb felt that verses from the Quran should not be stamped on coins, as done in former times, because they were constantly touched by the hands and feet of people.[59][page needed] His coins had the name of the mint city and the year of issue on one face, and, the following couplet on other

King Aurangzeb Alamgir
Stamped coins, in the world, like the bright full moon.[59][page needed]


Aurangzeb spent more than 20 years of his life fighting major and minor rebellions throughout the Mughal Empire.

By 1700, the Marathas ravaged the Mughal provinces from the Deccan to Bengal and internal dissatisfaction and secessionist agendas from the Rajputs, Sikhs and Jats arose due to the weakness of the Mughal Empire's administrative and economic systems.[60][page needed]

  • In 1669, the Jat peasants of Bharatpur around Mathura revolted and created Bharatpur state, fomenting a fierce rebellion around the Mughal capital.[citation needed]
  • In 1670, Shivaji, assassinated the Adil Shahi commander Afzal Khan, and later nearly killed the Mughal Viceroy Shaista Khan, while waging war against Aurangzeb. Shivaji and his forces ravaged the Deccan, Janjira and Surat and tried to gain control of vast territories. However by 1689 Aurangzeb's armies had captured Shivaji's, son, Sambhaji, and executed him after he had sacked Burhanpur.[61]
  • In 1679 the Rathore clan under the command of Durgadas Rathore rebelled when Auranzeb refused to make the young Rathore prince the king and took direct command of Jodhpur this caused great unrest amongst the Hindu Rajput rulers under Auranzeb and lead to many rebellions in Rajputana.
  • In 1672, the Satnami, a sect concentrated in an area near Delhi, under the leadership of Bhirbhan, took over the administration of Narnaul, but they were eventually crushed upon Aurangzeb's personal intervention with very few escaping alive.[62]
  • In 1671, the Battle of Saraighat was fought in the easternmost regions of the Mughal Empire against the Ahom Kingdom. The Mughals led by Mir Jumla II and Shaista Khan were forced to retreat after the respected Mughal admiral Munnawar Khan was killed in action.[citation needed]

Jat rebellion

The tomb of Akbar the Great was pillaged by Jat rebels during the reign of Aurangzeb.

In 1669, disenfranchised Hindu's known as Jats began to organize a rebellion that is believed to have been caused by Aurangzeb's imposition on Jaziya (a form of organized religious taxation). The Jats were led by the rebel Gokla a landholder from Tilpat. By the year 1670; 20,000 Jat rebels were quelled and the Mughal Army took control of Tilpat, Gokla's personal fortune amounted to 93,000 gold coils and hundreds of thousands of silver coins.[63]

Gokla was publicly cut into pieces, but the Jat's continued to rebel and pillaged and desecrated Akbar's mausoleum the gold, silver and fine carpets within the tomb were lost to the Jat rebels.[64][65]

Mughal-Maratha Wars

Aurangzeb leads the Mughal Army during the Siege of Satara.

In 1657, while Aurangzeb attacked Golconda and Bijapur in the Deccan, the Hindu Maratha warrior, Shivaji, used guerrilla tactics to take control of three Adil Shahi forts formerly under his father's command. With these victories, Shivaji assumed de facto leadership of many independent Maratha clans. The Marathas harried the flanks of the warring Adil Shahis and Mughals, gaining weapons, forts, and territory.[66] Shivaji's small and ill-equipped army survived an all out Adil Shahi attack, and Shivaji personally killed the Adil Shahi general, Afzal Khan.[67] With this event, the Marathas transformed into a powerful military force, capturing more and more Adil Shahi and Mughal territories.[68] Shivaji went on to neutralise Mughal power in the region.[69]

In 1659, Aurangzeb sent his trusted general and maternal uncle Shaista Khan, the Wali in Golconda to recover forts lost to the Maratha rebels. Shaista Khan drove into Maratha territory and took up residence in Pune. But in a daring raid on the governor's palace in Pune during a midnight wedding celebration, the Marathas killed Shaista Khan's son and maimed Shaista Khan by cutting off the fingers of his hand. Shaista Khan, however, survived and was re-appointed the administrator of Bengal going on to become a key commander in the war against the Ahoms.

A depiction of Shivaji in Aurangzeb's court in Agra in 1666.

Shivaji captured forts belonging to both Mughals and Bijapur. At last Aurangzeb ordered the armament of the Daulatabad Fort with two bombards (the Daulatabad Fort was later utilized as a Mughal bastion during the Deccan Wars). Aurangzeb also sent his general Raja Jai Singh of Amber, a Hindu Rajput, to attack the Marathas. Jai Singh won the fort of Purandar after fierce battle in which the Maratha commander Murarbaji fell. Foreseeing defeat, Shivaji agreed for a truce and a meeting with Aurangjeb at Delhi. Jai Singh also promised Shivaji his safety, placing him under the care of his own son, the future Raja Ram Singh I. However, circumstances at the Mughal court were beyond the control of the Raja, and when Shivaji and his son Sambhaji went to Agra to meet Aurangzeb, they were placed under house arrest, from which they managed to effect a daring escape.[70]

Shivaji returned to the Deccan, and crowned himself Chhatrapati or the ruler of the Maratha Confederacy in 1674.[71] While Aurangzeb continued to send troops against him, Shivaji expanded Maratha control throughout the Deccan until his death in 1680. Shivaji was succeeded by his son, Sambhaji. Militarily and politically, Mughal efforts to control the Deccan continued to fail.[citation needed]

When Maharaja Jaswant Singh of Jodhpur died in 1679, a conflict ensued over who would be the next Raja. Aurangzeb's choice of a nephew of the former Maharaja was not accepted by other members of Jaswant Singh's family and they rebelled, albeit in vain. Thereat, Aurangzeb seized control of Jodhpur. He also moved on Udaipur, which was the only other state of Rajputana to support the rebellion. There was never a clear resolution to this conflict, although it is noted that the other Rajputs, including the Kachhwaha Rajput clan of Raja Jai Singh, the Bhattis, and the Rathores, remained loyal. On the other hand, Aurangzeb's third son Akbar left the Mughal court along with a few Muslim Mansabdar supporters and joined Muslim rebels in the Deccan. Aurangzeb in response moved his court to Aurangabad and took over command of the Deccan campaign. The rebels were defeated and Akbar fled south to the shelter of Sambhaji, Shivaji's successor. More battles ensued, and Akbar fled to Persia and never returned.[72]

In 1689, Aurangzeb's forces captured Sambhaji, his successor Rajaram Chhatrapati and his Maratha forces fought individual battles against the forces of the Mughal Empire, and territory changed hands repeatedly during years of interminable warfare. As there was no central authority among the Marathas, Aurangzeb was forced to contest every inch of territory, at great cost in lives and money. Even as Aurangzeb drove west, deep into Maratha territory – notably conquering Satara — the Marathas expanded their attacks further into Mughal lands – Malwa, Hyderabad and Jinji in Tamil Nadu. Aurangzeb waged continuous war in the Deccan for more than two decades with no resolution.[73] He thus lost about a fifth of his army fighting rebellions led by the Marathas in Deccan India. He came down thousands of miles to the Deccan to conquer the Maratha Confederacy and eventually died at the age of 90, during his final campaign against the Marathas.[citation needed]

Decline of Mughal morale

Aurangzeb's shift from conventional warfare to anti-insurgency in the Deccan shifted the paradigm of Mughal military thought. Conflicts between Marathas and Mughals in Pune, Jinji, Malwa and Vadodara; the Mughal Empire's port city of Surat was sacked twice by the Marathas during the reign of Aurangzeb and the city's valuable port was in ruins.[74]

Historian, Khafi Khan writes: "So every plan and project that he formed came to little good; and every enterprise which he undertook was long in execution and failed in its objective."

Ahom campaign

Aurangzeb reading the Quran.

While Aurangzeb and his brother Shah Shuja had been fighting against each other, the Hindu rulers of Kuch Behar and Assam, took advantage of the disturbed conditions in the Mughal Empire, had invaded imperial dominions. For three years they were not attacked, but in 1660 Mir Jumla II, the viceroy of Bengal, was ordered to recover the lost territories.[75]

The Mughals set out in November, 1661, and within weeks occupied the capital of Kuch Behar after a few fierce skirmishes. The Kuch Behar was annexed, and the Mughal Army reorganized and began to retake their territories in Assam. Mir Jumla II's forces captured Pandu, Guwahati, and Kajali practically unopposed. In February 1662, Mir Jumla II initiated the Siege of Simalugarh and after the Mughal cannon breached the fortifications, the Ahoms abandoned the fort and escaped. Mir Jumla II then proceeded towards Garhgaon the capital of the Ahom kingdom, which was reached on 17 March 1662, although the ruler Raja Sutamla fled and the victorious Mughals captured 100 elephants, about 300,000 coins of gold and silver, 8000 shields, 1000 ships, and 173 massive stores of rice.[75]

When the Mughal navy from Lakhau and Dacca led by Munnawar Khan armed with gunboats began to take control of the Brahmaputra River, the Ahoms concluded a treaty at Ghilajharighat in January 1663 and ceded western Assam to the Mughals, promised a war indemnity of 300,000 gold and silver coins and 100 elephants. In addition to that Sutamla had to deliver his only child and daughter Ramani Gabharu, as well as his niece, the daughter of the Tipam Raja to the harem in Agra. Thus, according to the treaty Sutamla returned the territories in Kamrup to the possession of the Mughals and promised to pay a heavy war indemnity. After the Mughals received a heavy tribute they further captured some forts and towns in the cultivated districts near the frontier of Bengal and Assam.[76]

Later that year in December 1663, the aged Mir Jumla II died on his way back to Dacca of natural causes, but skirmishes continued between the Mughals and Ahoms after the rise of Chakradhwaj Singha, who refused to pay further indemnity to the Mughals and during the wars that continued the Mughals suffered great hardships. Munnawar Khan emerged as a leading figure and is known to have supplied food to vulnerable Mughal forces in the region near Mathurapur. Although the Mughals under the command of Syed Firoz Khan the Faujdar at Guwahati were overrun by two Ahom armies in the year 1667, but they continued to hold and maintain presence along their the eastern territories even after the Battle of Saraighat in the year 1671.[77]

Satnami rebellion

Aurangzeb dispatched his personal imperial guard during the campaign against the Satnami rebels.

In May 1672, the Satnami sect obeying the commandments of an "old toothless woman" (according to Mughal accounts) organized a massive revolt in the agricultural heartlands of the Mughal Empire. The Satnami's were known to have shaved off their head and even eyebrows and had temples in many regions of northern South Asia. They began a large scale rebellion 75 miles southwest of Delhi.[78]

The Satnami's believed they were invulnerable to Mughal bullets and believed they could multiply in any region they entered. The Satnami's initiated their march upon Delhi and overran small scale Mughal infantry units.[79]

Aurangzeb responded by organizing a Mughal Army of 10,000 troops, artillery and even dispatch detachments of his own personal Mughal imperial guards to carry out several tasks. In order to boost Mughal morale Aurangzeb wrote Islamic prayers, made Amulets and drew designs that would become emblems in the Mughal Army. This rebellion would have an serious aftermath effect on the Punjab.[78]

According to Mughal accounts 2000 Satnamis were killed in a series of confrontations not far from Delhi.[80]

Sikh Rebels

Zafarnama is the name given to the letter sent by the tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh in 1705 to the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. The letter is written in Persian script.

Early in Aurangzeb's reign, various insurgent groups of Sikhs engaged Mughal troops in increasingly bloody battles. The ninth Sikh Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur, like his predecessors was opposed to conversion of the local population as he considered it wrong. Approached by Kashmiri Pandits to help them retain their faith and avoid forced religious conversions, Guru Tegh Bahadur took on Aurangzeb. The emperor perceived the rising popularity of the Guru as a threat to his sovereignty and in 1670 had him executed,[81][page needed] which infuriated the Sikhs. In response, Guru Tegh Bahadur's son and successor, Guru Gobind Singh, further militarized his followers, starting with the establishment of Khalsa in 1699, eight years before Aurangzeb's death.[citation needed] In 1705, Guru Gobind Singh sent a letter entitled Zafarnamah to Aurangzeb. This drew attention to Auranzeb's cruelty and how he had betrayed Islam.[82][83] The letter caused him much distress and remorse.[84]

Pashtun rebellion

Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb on horseback.

The Pashtun revolt in 1672 under the leadership of the warrior poet Khushal Khan Khattak was triggered when soldiers under the orders of the Mughal Governor Amir Khan allegedly attempted to molest women of the Safi tribe in modern day Kunar. The Safi tribes retaliated against the soldiers. This attack provoked a reprisal, which triggered a general revolt of most of tribes. Attempting to reassert his authority, Amir Khan led a large Mughal Army to the Khyber Pass, where the army was surrounded by tribesmen and routed, with only four men, including the Governor, managing to escape.[citation needed]

After that the revolt spread, with the Mughals suffering a near total collapse of their authority in the Pashtun belt. The closure of the important Attock-Kabul trade route along the Grand Trunk road was particularly disastrous. By 1674, the situation had deteriorated to a point where Aurangzeb camped at Attock to personally take charge. Switching to diplomacy and bribery along with force of arms, the Mughals eventually split the rebels and partially suppressed the revolt, although they never managed to wield effective authority outside the main trade route. The anarchy that became endemic on the Empire's North-Western frontier as a consequence ensured that Nadir Shah's invading forces, half a century later, faced little resistance on the road to Delhi.[citation needed]

Death and legacy

Bibi Ka Maqbara, the mausoleum of Aurangzeb's wife Dilras Banu Begum, was built by him.

Aurangzeb's tomb in Khuldabad.

By 1689, almost all of Southern India was a part of the Mughal Empire and after the conquest of Golconda, Aurangzeb may have been the richest and most powerful man alive.[citation needed] Mughal victories in the south expanded the Mughal Empire to 3.2 million square kilometres, with a population estimated as being between 100 million and 150 million. But this supremacy was short-lived.[85] Jos Gommans, Professor of Colonial and Global History at the University of Leiden,[86] says that "... the highpoint of imperial centralisation under emperor Aurangzeb coincided with the start of the imperial downfall."[87]

Aurangzeb's vast imperial campaigns against rebellion-affected areas of the Mughal Empire caused his opponents to exaggerate the "importance" of their rebellions. The results of his campaigns were made worse by the incompetence of his regional Nawabs.[citation needed]

Muslim views regarding Aurangzeb vary. Most Muslim historians believe that Aurangzeb was the last powerful ruler of an empire inevitably on the verge of decline. The major rebellions organized by the Sikhs and the Marathas had deep roots in the remote regions of the Mughal Empire.[citation needed]

Unlike his predecessors, Aurangzeb considered the royal treasury to be held in trust for the citizens of his empire. He made caps and copied the Quran to earn money for his use. He did not use the royal treasury for personal expenses or extravagant building projects excepting perhaps the Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, which for 313 years was the world's largest mosque.[citation needed] Aurangzeb constructed a small marble mosque known as the Moti Masjid (Pearl Mosque) in the Red Fort complex in Delhi. However, his constant warfare, especially with the Marathas, drove his empire to the brink of bankruptcy just as much as the wasteful personal spending and opulence of his predecessors.[citation needed] Aurangzeb knew he would not return to the throne after his final campaign against the Marathas in 1706, in which he was joined by newly emerging commanders in the Mughal army such as Syed Hassan Ali Khan Barha, Saadat Ali Khan and Asaf Jah I, and Daud Khan.[citation needed]

Aurangzeb reading the Quran

The Indologist Stanley Wolpert, emeritus professor at UCLA,[88] says that:

the conquest of the Deccan, to which Aurangzeb devoted the last 26 years of his life, was in many ways a Pyrrhic victory, costing an estimated hundred thousand lives a year during its last decade of futile chess game warfare. The expense in gold and rupees can hardly be accurately estimated. Aurangzeb's encampment was like a moving capital – a city of tents 30 miles in circumference, with some 250 bazaars, with a 12 million camp followers, 50,000 camels and 30,000 elephants, all of whom had to be fed, stripped the Deccan of any and all of its surplus grain and wealth ... Not only famine but bubonic plague arose ... Even Aurangzeb, had ceased to understand the purpose of it all by the time he was nearing 90 ... "I came alone and I go as a stranger. I do not know who I am, nor what I have been doing," the dying old man confessed to his son, Azam, in February 1707.[89]

The unmarked grave of Aurangzeb in the mausoleum at Khuldabad.

Even when ill and dying, Aurangzeb made sure that the populace knew he was still alive, for if they had thought otherwise then the turmoil of another war of succession was likely.[90] He died in Ahmednagar on 20 February 1707 at the age of 88, having outlived many of his children. His modest open-air grave in Khuldabad expresses his deep devotion to his Islamic beliefs. It is sited in the courtyard of the shrine of the Sufi saint Shaikh Burhan-u'd-din Gharib, who was a disciple of Nizamuddin Auliya of Delhi.

Brown describes that after his death, "a string of weak emperors, wars of succession, and coups by noblemen heralded the irrevocable weakening of Mughal power". She notes that the populist but "fairly old-fashioned" explanation for the decline is that there was a reaction to Aurangzeb's oppression.[91] Aurangzeb's son, Bahadur Shah I, succeeded him and the empire, both due to Aurangzeb's over-extension and Bahadur Shah's weak military and leadership qualities, entered a period of terminal decline. Immediately after Bahadur Shah occupied the throne, the Maratha Empire – which Aurangzeb had held at bay, inflicting high human and monetary costs – consolidated and launched effective invasions of Mughal territory, seizing power from the weak emperor. Within decades of Aurangzeb's death, the Mughal Emperor had little power beyond the walls of Delhi.[92]

Full title

His full imperial title was:

ابو المظفر محي الدين محمد اورنگزیب عالمگیر
Abul Muzaffar Muhi-ud-Din Muhammad Aurangzeb Alamgir
आबुल मुज़ाफ्फर मुहि-उद-दीन मुहाम्माद औरंग़ज़ेब आलमग़ीर
السلطان الاعظم والخقان المكرم حضرت ابو المظفر محي الدين محمد اورنگزیب بہادر عالمگیر پادشاہ غازی
Al-Sultan al-A'zam wal Khaqan al-Mukarram Hazrat Abul Muzaffar Muhy-ud-Din Muhammad Aurangzeb Bahadur Alamgir I Padshah Ghazi
شاہنشاہ سلطنت الہنديہ والمغليہ
Shahanshah-e-Sultanat-ul-Hindiya Wal Mughaliya[citation needed]

See also



  1. Regarding the tokenistic aspect of Shah Jahan's actions to strengthen Islam in his empire, Satish Chandra says, "We may conclude that Shah Jahan tried to effect a compromise. While formally declaring the state to be an Islamic one, showing respect to the sharia, and observing its injunctions in his personal life, he did not reject any of the liberal measures of Akbar. ... Shah Jahan's compromise was based not on principle but on expediency."[26]
  2. It has however been argued that the Mughal emperor had political motives for this particular execution. See the article on Sarmad Kashani for references.


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Further reading

External links

Timurid Dynasty
Born: 4 November 1618 Died: 3 March 1707
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Shah Jahan
Mughal Emperor
Succeeded by
Bahadur Shah I

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