Aurangzeb and Decline of Mughal Empire

We have read that during the reign of Shahjahan, war of succession started. In this was, Aurangzeb defeated all his three brothers and got the throne of Mughal Empire. Though he got the throne after civil war with his own brothers. But the financial condition of Mughal Empire was not good that time. It was because of the Shahjahan, who spended a lot of treasury in making magnificent buildings.

So, Empire was facing trouble during the accession of Aurangzeb to the throne. In this situation, Aurangzeb almost reversed the policies of Akbar and created trouble for his subject. So, in a practical sense, he became the cause of the decline of Mughal Empire.

Mughal Empire from 1526-1707 CE
Mughal Empire from 1526-1707 CE

Reign of Aurangzeb

Aurangzeb was the fanatic ruler of Mughal Empire. It was not his fault rather it was his upbringing. His mentor was Miya Masoom, who always preached him in a fanatic way. So, Aurangzeb did not understand that to rule in India, he has to be a rational person. So, he came out with a Religious policy.

Religious Proclamation

In this, he gave the orders that Quranic verses will not be written on coins. He appointed Mutahids (Moral Teacher) to teach morality to Muslims. He came out with religious cum economic reforms. In which he ended history writings in his court. Also ended court music due to the financial crisis.

As all these things are prohibited by Islam, so it gave the message that Aurangzeb is doing reforms on religious grounds. So, in this way, his image became as religious ruler (bigot and fanatic). So, his rivals took advantage of his fanatic character.

Rebel Suppression

In 1669, he gave the order to destruct some temples Mathura, Varanasi (Kashi) and Ujjain. Actually, Aurangzeb never gave general order for the destruction of temples in India. But then in 1669, Mughal army entered the temple of Mathura, Somnath, Varanasi and Ujjain.

Demolition of Somnath Temple during the Reign of Aurangzeb
Demolition of Somnath Temple during the Reign of Aurangzeb

This was because Jat and Bundela rebels were hiding in these temples. So, it was an action against rebels of Mughal Empire. In Varanasi, he got annoyed by the presence of Muslims in temples for education. Aurangzeb also killed Sufi Sarmad.

Jaziyah Tax

He reimposed Jaziyah Tax. Because after 1670s Aurangzeb was facing the revolts from all the sides, like from Jats, Sikhs, Marathas, Bundelas etc. So, possibly to strengthen his strength in Muslims of India, he reimposed Jaziyah Tax. This proved to be a blunder for his. Because it strengthened his rival Chhatrapati Shivaji.

Therefore Akbar’s religious policy, which was based on the integration of all religions, was reversed by the Aurangzeb.

Rajput Policy of Aurangzeb

Aurangzeb relied on the friendship of Rajput and this was clear when he appointed Maharaja Jaisingh to handle with Shivaji in Deccan. But then he disturbed Mughal-Rajput relationship by unnecessarily interfering in affairs of Marwar and Mewar.

After the death of Maharaja Jaswant Singh of Marwar, he declared Indersingh as the new ruler of Marwar. Actually, Indersingh was neither liked by people nor by the bureaucracy of Marwar. So, this step annoyed bureaucrats and people. So, in this scenario, Rani Hadi and Durgadas Rathore appealed to Aurangzeb to remove Indersingh and gave the throne to the minor son of Maharaja Jaswant Singh.

But, as usual in his ignorance, he rejected the appeal. Because of which Rathore stood up against Aurangzeb and this was the beginning of trouble between Marwar and Mughals. Aurangzeb instead of handling problem peacefully gave the order to Mughal army to enter into Marwar region. So, this was Mughal imperialism on Marwar.

Mewar was morally attached to the cause of Marwar which was disliked by Aurangzeb. So, on this ground, he declared war on Mewar. So, these unnecessary wars between Mughals and Rajput rulers proved disastrous for Badshah’s Empire.

Deccan Crisis

The biggest pain for Badshah Aurangzeb was the creation of Maratha Swaraj by Shivaji in 1674. In 1680, Shivaji died and Sambhaji, the son of Shivaji succeeded Shivaji. Sambhaji gave shelter to Akbar, the rebel son of Aurangzeb. So, this ended the patience of Badshah. So, he himself moved towards Deccan and in the first step, he eliminated Bijapur and Golkunda.

Finally, in 1689, he caught Sambhaji at the place called Sangrameshwara. He killed Sambhaji and then he committed the biggest mistake of fighting with Maratha population. Actually, no one can fight with the entire population. It is the simplest rule for playing chess also when King dies in the chess game, the game must be ended.

But Mughal Badshah unaware of this fact unnecessary fought with the Maratha People. Marathas were good fighters and they followed the method of Chhapamar Yuddha. In 1705, he got exhausted and bankrupt. Finally, in 1707 he died and here ends the political story of Medieval India.

So, by the start of 18th century, the foundation of Mughal Empire started shaking. Though this weak foundation gave survival to the few later kings till 1857 CE. From here started the story of Modern India. We will discuss this story in the next coming posts.

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