Aurangzib, the Puritan Emperor of India, whose long life of nearly ninety years, including fifty years of sovereignty, was marked by the gradual downfall of the Moghul Empire, stands as a lonely figure amid scenes of the empire’s departing grandeur. “Incomparable courage, long-suffering, and judgment” were the qualities accorded him by the verdict of Mohammedan history after his death, and he was always extolled for “devotion, austerity, and justice.” Aurangzib’s strictness in all matters appertaining to religion is evident from the Mir’at-i Alam, a work written by Mohammad Baka, an official of high rank at court, a man, moreover, who had the opportunity of knowing his sovereign well. Aurangzib’s Moslem orthodoxy and his consecrated idea of the kingly office may be read between the lines of the chronicler’s account:–
Be it known to the readers of this work that its author, the humble slave of the Almighty, is going to describe in a correct manner the excellent character,
the worthy habits, and the refined morals of that most virtuous monarch, Abu-l-Muzaffar Muhi-ad-din Mohammad Aurangzib Alamgir, according as he has witnessed them with his own eyes.
The emperor, a great worshipper of God by natural propensity, is remarkable for his rigid attachment to religion. Having made his ablutions, he always occupies a great part of his time in adoration of the Deity and says the usual prayers, first in the mosque and then at home, both in the congregation and in private, with the most heartfelt devotion. He keeps the appointed fasts on Fridays and other sacred days and reads the Friday prayers in the Jami’ Masjid of Delhi with the common people of the Mohammedan faith. He keeps vigils during the whole of the sacred nights, and illumines with the light of the favour of God the lamp of religion and prosperity.
Because of his great piety, he passes whole nights in the mosque which is in his palace and keeps company with men of devotion. In privacy he never sits on a throne. Before his accession he gave away in alms a portion of his allowance of lawful food and clothing, and now devotes to the same purpose the income of a few villages in the district of Delhi, as well as the proceeds of two or three -salt-producing tracts which are appropriated to his privy purse. The princes also follow the same example. During the entire month of Ramazan he keeps the fast, says the prayers appointed for that season, and reads the holy Koran in the assembly of religious and learned men, with whom he sits
for that purpose during six, and sometimes nine, hours of the night. Throughout the last ten days of the month, he performs worship in the mosque, and although he is unable to proceed on a pilgrimage to Mecca for several reasons, yet the care which he takes to promote facilities for pilgrims to that holy place may be considered equivalent to the pilgrimage.
From the dawn of his understanding he has refrained from all that is forbidden, and on account of his great holiness has adopted nothing but that winch is pure and lawful. Though he has collected at the foot of his throne those who inspire ravishment in joyous assemblies of pleasure, in the shape of clever instrumental performers and of singers who possess melodious voices, and in the commencement of his reign used sometimes to hear them sing and play, and though he himself understands music well, yet for several years past, on account of his great restraint, self-denial, and observance of the tenets of religion, he has entirely abstained from such amusements. If any of the singers and musicians becomes ashamed of his calling, he makes an allowance for him or grants him land for his maintenance.
He never puts on the clothes prohibited by religion, nor does he ever use vessels of silver or gold. In his sacred court no improper conversation and no word of backbiting or falsehood is allowed. His courtiers, on whom his light is reflected, are cautioned that if they have to say anything which might injure the character of an absent man, they must express themselves
in decorous language and in full detail. He appears two or three times every day in his court of audience with a pleasing countenance and mild look to dispense justice to complainants who come in numbers without any hindrance; and as he listens to them with great attention, they make their representations without any fear or hesitation and obtain redress from his impartiality. If any person talks too much or acts in an improper manner, his Majesty is never displeased and never knits his brows. His courtiers have often sought to prohibit people from showing so much boldness, but he remarks that by hearing their very words and by seeing their gestures he acquires the habits of forbearance and tolerance.
All bad characters are expelled from the city of Delhi and the same is ordered to be done in all places throughout the empire. The duties of preserving order and regularity among the people are executed with great efficiency, and in all the empire, notwithstanding its vast extent, no crime can be committed without incurring the due punishment enjoined by the Mohammedan law. He never issues sentence of death under the dictates of anger and passion. In consideration of their rank and merit, he shows much honour and respect to the Sayyids, saints, and learned men, and through his cordial and liberal exertions, the sublime doctrines of the Imam Abu Hanifa and of our pure religion have obtained such prevalence throughout the wide territories of Hindustan as they never enjoyed in the reign of any former king.
Hindu writers have been entirely excluded from holding public offices and all the great temples of these infamous people have been thrown down and destroyed in a manner which excites astonishment at the successful completion of so difficult a task. His Majesty personally teaches the profession of faith to many infidels with success, and invests them with robes of honour and bestows other favours upon them.
Alms and donations are given by this fountain of generosity in such abundance that the emperors of past ages did not bestow even a hundredth part of the amount. In the sacred month of Ramazan sixty thousand rupees, and in the other months less than that amount, are distributed among the poor. Several eating-houses have been established in the capital and other cities, at which food is served out to the poor
and helpless, and in places where there were no caravansarais for the lodging of travellers, they have been built by the emperor. All the mosques in the empire are repaired at the expense of the state, and leaders in public prayer, criers to daily prayers, and readers of the sermons have been appointed at each mosque, so that a large sum of money is laid out in these disbursements. In all the cities and towns of this extensive country, pensions, allowances, and land have been given to learned men and professors, while stipends have been fixed for scholars according to their abilities and qualifications.
As it is a great object with this emperor that all Mohammedans should follow the principles of the religion as expounded by the most competent law officers and the followers of the Hanifi persuasion, and as these principles could not be distinctly and clearly learned in consequence of the different opinions of the judges and theologians which have been delivered without any authority, and as there was no book which embodied them all, and as no man could satisfy his mind concerning any disputed problem until he had collected many books and had obtained sufficient leisure, means, and knowledge of theological subjects, therefore his Majesty, the protector of the Faith, determined that a body of eminently learned and able men of Hindustan should take up the voluminous and trustworthy works which were collected in the royal library, and having made a digest of them, should compose a book which might form a standard canon of the law and afford to all an easy and
available means of ascertaining the proper and authoritative interpretation.
The chief conductor of this difficult undertaking was Shaikh Nizam, the most learned man of the time, and all the members of the society were very handsomely and liberally paid, so that up to the present time a sum of about two hundred thousand rupees has been expended on this valuable compilation, which contains more than one hundred thousand lines. Another excellence attending this design is, that with a view to afford facility to all, Chulpi Abd-allah and his pupils have been ordered to translate the work into Persian.
Among the greatest liberalities of this king of the faithful is his remission of the transit duties upon all sorts of grain, cloth, and other goods, as well as on tobacco, the duties on which alone amounted to an immense sum. He exempted the Mohammedans from taxes and released the entire people from certain public demands, the revenue of which exceeded three million rupees every year. He relinquished the government claims against the ancestors of the officers of the state, which used to be paid by deductions from the salaries of their descendants. This money formed a very large annual income paid into the public treasury. He also abolished the confiscation of the estates of deceased persons against whom there was no government claim, a practice which had been very strictly observed by the accountants of his predecessors and which was felt as a very grievous oppression by their sorrowful heirs.
Royal orders were also issued to collect the revenues of each province according to the Mohammedan law.
As a single instance of his Majesty’s fortitude we may cite the following event. When the royal army arrived at Balkh, Abd-al-Aziz Khan, with a large force which equalled the swarms of locusts and ants, came and arranged his men in order of battle and surrounded the emperor’s camp. While the conflict was being carried on with great fury, the time of reading the evening prayers came on, and his Majesty, though dissuaded by some worldly officers, alighted from his horse and said the prayers in a congregation with the utmost indifference and presence of mind On hearing of this, Abd-alAziz was much astonished at the intrepidity of the emperor, who was assisted by God, and put an end to the battle, saying that to fight with such a man was to destroy oneself.
The emperor is perfectly acquainted with the commentaries, traditions, and law, and one of the greatest excellences of this virtuous monarch is that he has learned the Koran by heart. In his early youth he had committed to memory some chapters of that sacred book, but he learned the whole by heart after he ascended the throne, taking great pains and showing much perseverance in impressing it upon his mind. He writes a very elegant Arabic hand and has acquired perfection in this art. He made two copies of the holy book with his own hand, and having finished and adorned them with ornaments and marginal lines at the expense of seven thousand rupees, he sent them to the holy cities
of Mecca and Medina. He also writes an excellent Persian hand, and besides being a very elegant stylist in prose, he has acquired proficiency in versification. In obedience to the words of God, “Poets deal in falsehoods,” however, he abstains from writing poetry, nor does he care to hear verses except those which contain a moral.
The emperor has given a very liberal education to his fortunate and noble children, who have attained the zenith of perfection by virtue of his attention and care and have made marvellous progress in rectitude, devotion, and piety, and in learning the manners and customs of princes and great men. Through his instruction they have memorized the Book of God, obtained proficiency in the sciences and in polite literature, acquired the art of writing the various Arabic scripts, and learned the Turkish and Persian languages.
In like manner, the ladies of the household have learned the fundamental and necessary tenets of religion in obedience to his command, and all devote their time to the adoration and worship of the Deity, to reading the sacred Koran, and to the performance of virtuous and pious acts. The excellence of character and the purity of morals of this holy monarch are beyond all expression. As long as nature nourishes the tree of existence and keeps the garden of the world fresh, so long may the plant of the prosperity of this preserver of the garden of dignity and honour continue fruitful and abundant!
The austere side of Aurangzib’s character is illustrated
by some of his enactments in the eleventh year of his reign. Their effect is thus described in Khafi Khan’s Tarikh, or history:–
In the eleventh year of his reign, 1078 A.H. (1668 A.D.), after his Majesty Aurangzib had sat for ten years upon, his throne, authors were forbidden to write the events of this just and righteous emperor’s reign. Nevertheless, some competent persons disobeyed this mandate, particularly Musta’idd Khan, who secretly wrote an abridged account of the campaign in the Deccan, simply detailing the conquests of the countries and forts without alluding to the misfortunes of the campaign; and Bindraban prepared a brief narrative of the events of some years of the second and third decades. I myself, however, have neither seen nor obtained any history that contains a full and detailed account of the forty remaining years of the reign of Aurangzib. Consequently, from the eleventh to the twenty-first year of the emperor’s reign, I have not been able to relate the events in the order in which they occurred, giving the month and year; but after this year, with very great labour and pains, I have managed to collect information from the papers in the public offices and from truthful persons, confidential servants of the emperor, and aged eunuchs. This, together with all that I myself observed for thirty or forty years, after attaining years of discretion, I laid up in the strongbox of my memory, and that I have written And since I heard that Bindraban Das Bahadur Shahi, who was long an accountant of Shah Alam
during the time he was a prince, had compiled a history and had included in it an account of upwards of thirty years, I made great search for it, being exceedingly anxious to see it. Subsequently, when I obtained a copy after great trouble and examined it carefully from beginning to end in the hope that I might gather the rich fruits of his labours, I discovered that his work did not contain one-half of what I had collected and included in my own history.
The king of happy disposition strove earnestly from day to day to put in force the rules of the Law and to maintain the divine commands and prohibitions. Orders were also issued prohibiting the collection of the tolls, the ground cesses, and other imposts which brought in hundreds of thousands of rupees to the state. Prohibitions were promulgated against intoxicating drinks, against taverns and brothels, and against the meetings called jatras or fairs, at which on certain dates countless numbers of Hindus, men and women of every tribe, assemble at their idol-temples, where hundreds of thousands of rupees change hands in buying and selling, while large sums accrue to the provincial treasuries.
The minstrels and singers of reputation that were in the service of the court were made ashamed of their occupation and were advanced to the dignities of commands of horse. Public proclamations were made prohibiting singing and dancing. It is said that one day a number of singers and minstrels gathered together with loud outcries, and having fitted up a bier with
great display, round which were grouped the public wailers, they passed under the emperor’s interview-window. When he inquired what was intended by the bier and the show, the minstrels said that Music was dead and that they were carrying his corpse for burial. Aurangzib then directed them to place it deep in the ground, that no sound or cry might ever again arise from it.
In the reigns of former kings, and up to this year, the custom of appearing publicly at the palace window had been a regular institution. Even though the king might be suffering from bodily indisposition, he would go to the window once or twice a day at stated times and put his head out of the window to show that he was safe. At Agra and at Delhi this window was constructed on the side looking toward the Jumna. Besides the nobles in attendance at the court, hundreds of thousands of men and women of all classes used to collect under it and offer their blessings and praises. Many Hindus were known by the name of darsani, or “lookers,” for until they had seen the person of the king at the window, they put not a morsel of food into their mouths. His religious Majesty looked upon this as one of the forbidden and unlawful practices, so he left off sitting in the window and forbade any assembly of the crowd beneath it.’
The selection chosen to conclude this chapter is an account of the death of Aurangzib in his eighty-ninth year and the fifty-first of his reign, on February 21, 1707. The notice is by Saki Musta’idd Khan, who
secretly composed the annals of the emperor’s reign, despite the well-known prohibition. The picture of the last period of Aurangzib’s life, broken by warfare, old age, and sorrow, has been given in the preceding volume of this series. The final scene of the melancholy drama, depicting practically the end of Moghul power in Aurangzib’s decease, is thus portrayed by Musta’idd:–
After the conclusion of the holy wars which rescued the countries of the Deccan from the dominion of the pagans, the army encamped at Ahmadnagar on the sixteenth of Shawwal in the fiftieth year of the reign of Aurangzib (1117 A.H.; 1706 A.D.). A year after this, at the end of Shawwal in the fifty-first year of his reign, the king fell ill and consternation spread among people of all ranks; but by the blessing of Providence his Majesty recovered his health in a short time and resumed once more the administration of affairs.
About this time, the noble Shah Alam was appointed governor of the province of Malwa and Prince Kam Bakhsh was made ruler of Bijapur. Only four or five days had elapsed after the departure of their royal highnesses, when the king was seized with a burning fever which continued unabated for three days. Nevertheless, his Majesty did not relax his devotions and every ordinance of religion was strictly kept. On the evening of Thursday, his Majesty perused a petition from Hamid-ad-din Khan, who stated that he had devoted the sum of four thousand rupees, the price of an elephant, as a propitiatory sacrifice and begged to be permitted to make over this amount to the Kazi Mulla
Haidar for distribution. The king granted the request, and although he was weak and his suffering was great, he nevertheless wrote with his own hand on the petition that it was his earnest wish that this sacrifice should lead to a speedy dissolution of his mortal frame.
On the morning of Friday, the twenty-eighth of Zu-l-ka’da, 1118 A.H. (February 21, 1707 A.D.), his Majesty performed the consecrated prayers and returned at their conclusion to the sleeping apartments, where he remained absorbed in contemplation of the Deity. Faintness came on and the soul of the aged monarch hovered on the verge of eternity. Even in this dread hour the force of habit prevailed, and the fingers of the dying king continued mechanically to tell the beads of the rosary they held. A quarter of the day
later the king breathed his last and thus was fulfilled his wish to die on a Friday.
Great was the grief among all classes of people for the king’s death. The shafts of adversity had demolished the edifice of their hopes, and the night of sorrow darkened the joyful noonday. Holy men prepared to perform the funeral rites and kept the corpse in the sleeping apartment pending the arrival of Prince Mohammad A’zam, who was twenty-five leagues distant from the camp. The prince arrived the following day and it is impossible to describe the grief that was depicted on his countenance; never had anything like it been beheld. On Monday he assisted in carrying the corpse through the hall of justice, whence the procession went on without him. May none ever experience the anguish that he felt. People sympathized with the prince’s sorrow and shed torrents of tears. Such and so deeply felt were the lamentations for a monarch whose genius only equalled his piety, whose equal the world did not contain, but whose luminous countenance was now hidden from his loving people!
According to the will of the deceased king, his mortal remains were deposited in the tomb constructed during his lifetime near the shrine of the holy Shaikh Zain-ad-din (the mercy of God be upon him!) This place of sepulture, known by the name of Khuldabad, is eight leagues distant from Khujista-bunyad (Aurangabad) and three leagues from Daulatabad. A red stone three yards in length, two in width, and a few inches in depth, is placed above the tomb. In this stone
a cavity in the shape of an amulet was hollowed out to receive earth and seeds, and sweet-scented herbs diffuse their fragrance round about the grave of Aurangzib.
This collection transcribed by Chris Gage