Aurangzeb Portrait

Aurangzeb: The Intolerant


By most accounts, Aurangzeb was a warrior with an axe to grind. Much less tolerant of other religions than his great-grandfather Akbar, Aurangzeb spent much of his time making enemies with the Hindus of northern India. He removed the tax-free status that Akbar had granted the Hindus, destroyed their temples, and crushed their vassal states that had previously enjoyed semi-independent status.

Aurangzeb was a conqueror from the start, having deposed his father Shah Jehan and mercilessly executed his brother, Crown Prince Dara Shukoh. And for the next 49 years, he pushed his kingdom's territory to its high water mark, expanding into the far south of India through the Deccan plain. But not unlike the empire of his renown ancestor Ghengis Khan, Aurangzeb was unable to maintain this overbloated domain. The vastness of the empire strained its army, its bureaucracy, and its economy, and when Aurangzeb died in 1707, the empire was near the point of implosion. His successor and son, Bahadur Shah, was so old by the time Aurangzed died, he only managed to live a few more years before passing on the throne again. But at this point in time, the government had become so weak, the empire became an easy target of invasion and explotation, first by the Persians, and then by the British.

With the ascension of the British Raj in India, the Mughals' time as absolute monarchs was near an end. In 1803, Raj forces captured both Delhi and Agra, and the Mughals themselves became vassals of the British. By 1858, they had burnt themselves out - the last Moghul Sultan, Bahadur Shah II, sided against the British during the Sepoy Mutiny, and when the British regained control, Bahadur Shah II was exiled, his monarchy abolished, and his heirs executed. The glory that was once the Mughal empire was now but a faint memory.

Aurangzeb's Architectural Legacy:

Moti Masjid (Delhi Fort), Delhi (1659)
Burj-i-Shamali (Delhi Fort), Delhi
Badshahi Mosque, Lahore (1674)
Bibi ka Maqbara, Aurangabad (1678)
Zinat-ul-Masjid, Delhi (1710)
Safdar Jang's Tomb, Delhi (1753-4)
Zafar Mahal, Hira Mahal (Delhi Fort), Delhi (1842)
Gate to Zafar Mahal (Mehrauli), Delhi (c. 1850)

The Mughal Dynasty:

Babur | Humayun | Akbar | Jehangir | Shah Jehan | Aurangzeb

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