In new book, a side of Aurangzeb India is not familiar with

"Aurangzeb protected more Hindu temples than he destroyed. He employed more Hindus in his imperial administration than any prior Mughal ruler by a fair margin," says Truschke.

Written by Adrija Roychowdhury | New Delhi | Updated: June 5, 2017 8:50 am
Aurangzeb, Aurangzeb The life and legacy of India's most controversial king, Audrey Truschke, Audrey Truschke on Aurangzeb, Audrey Truschke Aurangzeb history, Aurangzeb history, Aurangzeb new book, historian Audrey Truschke, Audrey Truschke new book, Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, Aurangzeb history, Indian Express In her book, “The Life and Legacy of India’s Most Controversial King,” Truschke unpacks a side of Aurangzeb largely unknown to Indians. (Source: Stanford University)

“Aurangzeb was arguably the most powerful and wealthiest ruler of his day. His nearly 50-year reign (1658–1707) had a profound influence on the political landscape of early modern India, and his legacy—real and imagined—continues to loom large in India and Pakistan today.”
Not something we are used to reading about the Mughal emperor, but historian Audrey Truschke has a distinct take on the most hated of Babur’s successors. In her book, “The Life and Legacy of India’s Most Controversial King,” Truschke unpacks a side of Aurangzeb largely unknown to Indians. Locating his personality in the time during which her ruled, she analyses a part of Aurangzeb that is ruthless and benign at the same time depending upon political necessities. She spoke to indianexpress.com on the most reviled of Mughal emperors.

Was Aurangzeb really a religious bigot? If not, how else do you analyse his religious policies in your book?

According to modern definitions, Aurangzeb acted as a religious bigot in some ways. But he also acted in ways that we would describe, again using modern terms, as tolerant. Aurangzeb was not a modern man, and so it should be unsurprising that modern standards of bigotry do not advance our historical understanding of this Mughal king. In the book, I argue that we get far closer to grasping something of Aurangzeb’s world if we analyse his actions and policies according to his devotion to a set of pre-modern values, including piety, Mughal kingship, and justice, all of which were tempered by Aurangzeb’s seemingly insatiable thirst for earthly power.

Could you give me a few specific instances when Aurangzeb acted against the perceived image of a religious bigot?

Aurangzeb protected more Hindu temples than he destroyed. He employed more Hindus in his imperial administration than any prior Mughal ruler by a fair margin (50% more Hindus, proportionally, than Akbar had included, for instance). Aurangzeb asked Hindu doctors and astrologers for advice throughout his life, even in his final years. Aurangzeb also destroyed some temples, reinstitute the jizya tax, and, along with the Marathas, caused mass human suffering in central and south India. The goal for a historian is to make sense of all of these aspects of Aurangzeb rather than singling out only one side of this complicated king.

Aurangzeb, Aurangzeb The life and legacy of India's most controversial king, Audrey Truschke, Audrey Truschke on Aurangzeb, Audrey Truschke Aurangzeb history, Aurangzeb history, Aurangzeb new book, historian Audrey Truschke, Audrey Truschke new book, Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, Aurangzeb history, Indian Express “Aurangzeb was not a modern man, and so it should be unsurprising that modern standards of bigotry do not advance our historical understanding of this Mughal king, “says Audrey Truschke. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

How has colonial historiography harmed the image of Aurangzeb? Please give some specific cases of history writing in this regard.

British colonialists depicted Indo-Muslim kings overall as undesirable and held up Aurangzeb as uniquely horrific so that British colonialism might shine by comparison. A good example of this tactic is Elliot and Dowson’s The history of India, as told by its own historians, a multivolume work that translated excerpts of premodern Islamic texts that were selected to display the alleged barbarity of Indo-Muslim kings. Elliot and Dowson were quite open about their goals in their prefaces. In volume one’s preface, for example, Elliot proclaimed “the supremacy of the British [colonial] Government” over “Muhammadan” kings who display “the vices of a Caligula or a Commodus.” Dowson’s preface to the second volume says that readers can expect to see, through the translated excerpts, “Musulman despotism.” Even today, many people still cite this problematic work of colonial propaganda with little regard for its pro-British, pro-colonial agenda.
Would you say that the image of Aurangzeb is used for political gains even today?

British colonialism finds few defenders in India today, but Hindu nationalists have gobbled up colonial-era depictions of Mughal history, including Aurangzeb, and spit them out in order to foster anti-Muslim sentiment. This embrace of colonial ideas is unsurprising given the history of Hindu nationalism, but it is deeply detrimental to the founding fathers’ vision of India as a secular state that embraced members of all religious traditions.

Aurangzeb, Aurangzeb The life and legacy of India's most controversial king, Audrey Truschke, Audrey Truschke on Aurangzeb, Audrey Truschke Aurangzeb history, Aurangzeb history, Aurangzeb new book, historian Audrey Truschke, Audrey Truschke new book, Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, Aurangzeb history, Indian Express ‘Auranzeb seated on the Peacock Throne’ (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Why is Aurangzeb constantly pitted against Akbar as occupying two opposite ends of the political spectrum- one the good Mughal ruler and other the bad Mughal ruler?

The Akbar-Aurangzeb dichotomy persists, I think, because many people analyze Indo-Muslim history by ranking Muslim kings according to their supposed piety. The idea here is that Akbar was a good Indian emperor precisely because he wasn’t (in this view) very Muslim, whereas Aurangzeb’s piety crippled his ability to rule India. I think this is an impoverished way to think about the past, not to mention historically dubious.

While conducting research for your book what did you find most striking about Aurangzeb’s personality?

Aurangzeb seemed to be a bit blind regarding his sons. Specifically, he failed to see that by restraining his sons, the Mughal princes, he was undermining their position and thus weakening the Mughal Empire. I wonder why Aurangzeb, a man so skilled at ruling in many ways, did not grasp the importance of strong princely competition to the Mughal Empire.

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    Durga Mishra
    Jul 27, 2017 at 12:16 am
    To say the least, the authoress is partial to the existing literature on Aurangzebe. In any review of her work or her interview, nothing emerges to suggest that she has ever got in touch with the work of regional authors who ever wrote on this Moghul. Any way, she has ever right to communicate her views to the readers of Indian History.
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      Indrajeet
      Jun 16, 2017 at 5:32 pm
      Hilarious article.
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        ayesha siddiqui
        Jun 6, 2017 at 9:35 am
        Next in series of Exposing the real history of Emperor Aurangzeb which Hindu Bigots dont teach.... "Futuhat-i-Alamgiri" ( Written by Man in service of Chief Gazi of Aurangzeb) In Udaipur "... The Emperor, within a short time, reached Udaipur AND DESTRO THE GATE OF DEHBARI, THE PALACES OF RANA AND THE TEMPLES OF UDAIPUR. Apart from it, the trees of his gardens were also destro ..." In Mathura HOLY CITY OF HINDUS.. EMPEROR AURANGZEB ORDERED THE FAUJDAR OF THE CITY, ABDUL NABI KHAN, TO RAZE TO THE GROUND EVERY TEMPLE AND TO CONSTRUCT BIG MOSQUES (over their demolished sites)..."
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          ayesha siddiqui
          Jun 6, 2017 at 9:32 am
          Hypothesis is okay, what happened to articulating history from real historians ? "Futuhat-i-Alamgiri"... Written by Ishwardas Nagar (in service of chief gazi of Aurangzeb ) Muhiyu'd-Din Muhammad Aurangzeb 'Alamgir Padshah Ghazi (AD 1658-1707) Mathura (Uttar Pradesh) " ... When the imperial army was encamping at Mathura, a holy city of the Hindus, the state of affairs with regard to temples of Mathura was brought to the notice of His Majesty. Thus, HE ORDERED THE FAUJDAR OF THE CITY, ABDUL NABI KHAN, TO RAZE TO THE GROUND EVERY TEMPLE AND TO CONSTRUCT BIG MOSQUES (over their demolished sites)..."
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            ayesha siddiqui
            Jun 6, 2017 at 9:27 am
            Most of the points in article is doubtful, no authentic source, no reference. I cant tolerate anyone trying to change history.... Muraq'at-i-Abu'I Hasan" by Maulana Abu'l Hasan(one of Aurangzeb's officers in Bengal and Orissa during AD 1655-67) Aurangzeb HAS ISSUED HIS AUGUST MANDATE FOR ITS DESTRUCTION, and THE DESTRUCTION OF ALL TEMPLES BUILT ANYWHERE IN THIS PROVINCE BY THE WORTHLESS INFIDELS. Therefore, you are commanded with extreme urgency that immediately on the receipt of this letter YOU SHOULD DESTROY THE ABOVE MENTIONED TEMPLES. EVERY IDOL-HOUSE BUILT DURING THE LAST 10 or 12 YEARS, WHETHER WITH BRICK OR CLAY, SHOULD BE DEMOLISHED WITHOUT DELAY. ALSO, DO NOT ALLOW THE CRUSHED HINDUS AND DE ABLE INFIDELS TO REPAIR THEIR OLD TEMPLES. REPORTS OF THE DESTRUCTION OF TEMPLES SHOULD BE SENT TO THE COURT UNDER THE SEAL OF THE QAZIS and attested by PIOUS SHAIKHS..."
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              ayesha siddiqui
              Jun 6, 2017 at 9:22 am
              I disagree because Im educated with authentic History from reliable source... Destruction of Hindu Temples by Emperor Aurangzeb is a reality... Kalimat-i-Aurangzeb" by 'Inayatullah This is another compilation of letters and orders by 'Inayatu'llah covering the years 1703-06 of Aurangzeb's reign. Muhiyu'd-Din Muhammad Aurangzeb 'Alamgir Padshah Ghazi (AD 1658-1707) Maharashtra "...The houses of this country (Maharashtra) are exceedingly strong and built solely of stone and iron. The hatchet-men of the Govt. in the course of my marching do not get sufficient strength and power (i.e. time) TO DESTROY AND RAZE THE TEMPLES OF THE INFIDELS that meet the eye on the way. You should appoint an orthodox inspector (darogha) who may afterwards DESTROY THEM AT LEISURE AND DIG UP THEIR FOUNDATIONS..."
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                ayesha siddiqui
                Jun 6, 2017 at 9:20 am
                But Islamic History doesnt agree. As a student of Islamic history, I want to expose the truth... "Mas'ir-i-'Alamgiri" by Saqi Must'ad Khan The author completed this history in 1710 at the behest of Inayatu''llah Khan Kashmiri, Aurangzeb's last secretary Muhiyu'd-Din- Muhammad Aurangzeb 'Alamgir Padshah Ghazi (1658-1707) General Order "...The Lord Cherisher of the faith learnt that in the provinces of Tatta, Multan, and especially at Benaras, the Brahmin misbelievers used to teach their false books in their established schools, and that admirers and students both Hindu and Muslim, used to come from great distances to these misguided men in order to acquire this vile learning. His majesty, eager to establish Islam, issues orders to the governors of all the provinces TO DEMOLISH THE SCHOOLS AND TEMPLES OF THE INFIDELS and with utmost urgency put down the teaching and the public practice of the religion of these misbelievers..."
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                  ayesha siddiqui
                  Jun 6, 2017 at 9:16 am
                  Im a muslim, Islamic History provides authentic evidence Aurangzeb destro Hindu temples and Raped Hindu girls his entire life.. "Mir'at-i-Alam" by Bakhtawar Khan ( nobleman of Aurangzeb's court) Hindu writers have been entirely excluded from holding public offices, and ALL THE WORSHIPPING PLACES OF THE INFIDELS AND GREAT TEMPLES of these infamous people HAVE BEEN THROWN DOWN AND DESTRO in a manner which excites astonishment at the successful completion of so difficult a task. His Majesty personally teaches the sacred kalima to many infidels with success. ...
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