Some FACTS about Aurangzeb

French journalist Francois Gautier’s Foundation Against Continuing Terrorism put together an exhibition titled “Aurangzeb as he was according to Mughal records.”  The exhibition displayed various paintings which show Aurangzeb ordering the removal of his father’s body and trying to convert a Jewish philosopher. There were also two paintings which showed the destruction of the Somnath temple and pieces of a temple being used to build the steps of a mosque.

This exhibition was held at Delhi, Pune and Bangalore without incident, but when it reached Chennai, the Aurangzeb DNA in some got activated. The folks at Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam, Manitha Neethi Paasarai, and someone called the Prince of Arcot did not like it a bit and with violence managed to end the exhibition. According to them the displayed objects were a fabrication  and would “promote enmity between various groups” and ironically they had to resort to violence to drum once more that Aurangzeb was a benevolent ruler.

There has been great effort in India to confer an aura of sanctity on Aurangzeb by naming roads after him and whitewashing his terror. State circular (Syl/89/1) published by the West Bengal Government explicitly removed certain lines from history text books. They include, “”The early Sultans were eager to expand the sway of Islam by forcibly converting Hindus to Islam” and “”As dictated by Islam, there were three options for non-Muslims, get yourself converted to Islam, pay jaziya or face death. In an Islamic state, non-Muslims had to accept one of these choices.” Two paintings at the FACT exhibition shows exactly this.

The history books — not the state sanctioned ones — do not present a flattering image of Aurangzeb (1659 – 1707) and agree with depictions. This Mughal emperor reversed whatever tolerance Akbar had practiced. Restrictions were put on the practice of Hindu rituals, orthodox Muslims were preferred in courts,  Jaziya was reimposed and Hindu temples were demolished. This has to be contrasted with the rule of Akbar when religious tests and Jaziya were abolished and Rajput princes and other Hindus were given prominent positions in the state.[1]

Why don’t we all read the G rated NCERT text books and sing Kumbaya? Why rake up the past and cause communal disharmony?

One of the contentions of those, who protested against the exhibition, was that raking up the past would create a communal divide in Tamil Nadu, which has been relatively free of it.One of the lessons of history has been that remaining silent on unpleasant periods in history leads to a repetition of such unpleasant experiences. That is why Western school children are taught about the evils of rulers like Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin etc. That is why the Jewish people keep reminding themselves and the  rest of the world about the holocaust. That was why some years ago Jean-Marie Le Pen, the French rightist leader, was severely criticised for denying the reality of the  holocaust.

When we deny harsh truths of history, we are only playing into the hands of jihadi terrorists, who see themselves as the Aurangzeb of today. [AURANGZEBS OF TODAY]

See Also: B Raman: “Aurangzebs of Today” , From Baroda to Chennai, FACT India, Will Arundhati Roy pl. stand up for Francois Gautier?

[1] Wonder That Was India by A.L.Basham

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  1. Hey,

    These paintings that you have on the Aurangzeb issue have Nagri script on them so they cannot be Mughal paintings and they seem to be 18th-19th century stuff. Of course Aurangzeb was witness to communal polarisation in India but this is not the way to prove it. Its another issue whether we can even talk about the person and the political scenario in the same vein. Its like saying Manmohan Singh’s reign is the heyday of Sikhs or 1947-now is the heyday of Brahmins (which it is). I dont believe the story about Akbar the secular and Aurangzeb the mullah. Both are nonsense. They were kings, and kings live a life of great constraint from a lot of places. But you are doing the same stuff as your Marxist brethren. Dodging evidence and redirecting it.

  2. Vikas,

    The paintings were not done during the Mughal times, but are based on original edicts by Aurangzeb.

    Thus we thought we should go at the root of the matter. History (like journalism) is about documentation and first hand experience. We decided to show Aurangzeb according to his own documents. There are an incredible number of farhans, of original edicts of Aurangzeb, hand-written in Persian in India’s museums, particularly in Rajasthan, such as the Bikaner archives. It was not always easy to scan them, we encountered resistance, sometimes downright hostility and we had to go once to the CM to get permissions. Indeed the director of Bikaner archives told us that in 50 years, we were the first ones asking for these farhans dealing with Aurangzeb destructive deeds. Then we asked painters from Rajasthan to reproduce in the ancient Moghol style some of the edicts : the destruction of the Somnath temple, or the trampling of Hindus protesting jizya tax by Aurangzeb’s elephants, or the order from Aurangzeb prohibiting Hindus to ride horses and palanquins, or the beheading of Teg Bahadur and Dara Shikoh.

    The first step in a debate is to have the facts out and what FACT did was to bring out certain things which for obvious reasons have been white washed out of our history books. You said that you do not believe Akbar was that secular and Auragzeb was a mullah, but what we know is that Akbar did not destroy Somnath temple, while Aurangzeb did. So what changed between the times of those two people to warrant such an action? Finding that would be the interesting thing isn’t it.

  3. Thanks for reminding me about Bikaner archives and the little capsule on what is history. It is nice to know that you are so certain about that. But you also quote “history (like journalism) … “. Now I would never want a history like that.

    If you do think facts are the cornerstone of history then would you mind explaining why Aurangzeb continued to finance and give grants to various other Hindu temples. In fact for every one that he destroyed there were many that he helped thrive. Some names – Jangam Badi mandir in Banaras, Someshvar Nath Mahadev in Ilahabad, Umanand temple in Gauhati. In fact, Aurangzeb did destroy the temples which had sided with the Dara Shikoh faction during the succession wars. The Keshav Rai temple and many other Vaishnava temples were pro-Dara, and they paid the price.

    The problem with a lot of Hindu historians is that they say the communities of followers of Hinduism and Islam to be of the same nature, character and strength have been the same for 1000s of years. Think about why people never bothered about the ‘temple-breaker’. Maybe they did not care about the temple. Maybe there was no ‘national Hinduism’. Maybe Somanath was/is more important in 19/20th century than it was in 11/12th. Of course you can say Muslims are oppressors. Its the easy, unthinking way out.

    History is about the present, not the past.

  4. ‘History is about the present, not the past.’

    That’s funny. So from your definition, we shouldn’t worry about Aurangzeb or even Gandhi.

  5. You offered an explanation that Aurgangzeb destroyed temples which sides with Dara Sikoh. Dara Sikoh was murdered in 1659 and Somnath temple was destroyed by
    Aurangzeb in 1706, almost fifty years later. Isn’t it amusing that he
    waited that long.

    Again, if his vendetta was against the Dara Sikoh faction, then why impose jaziya on non-Muslims?

    With the object of curbing the infidels and of distinguishing the land of the faithful from an infidel land the jizya or poll tax was imposed upon the Hindus throughout all the provinces i Upon the publication of this order the Hindus all round Dehli assembled in vast numbers under the jharokha of the Emperor on the river front of the palace to represent their inability to pay and to pray for the recall of the edict But the Emperor would not listen to their complaints One day when he went to public prayer in the great mosque on the Sabbath a vast multitude of Hindus thronged the road from the palace to the mosque with the object of seeking relief Money changers and drapers all kinds of shopkeepers from the Urdu bdzar mechanics and workmen of all kinds left off work and business and pressed into the way Notwithstanding orders were given to force a way through it was impossible for the Emperor to reach the mosque Every moment the crowd increased and the Emperor’s equipage was brought to a stand still At length an order was given to bring out the elephants and direct them against the mob Many fell trodden to death under the feet of the elephants and horses For some days the Hindu continued to assemble in great numbers and complain but at length they submitted to pay thejizi a  <a href=”,355,830,807&source=bookclip”>The History of India, as Told by Its Own Historians The Muhammadan Period By Henry Miers Elliot,  John Dowson</a>

  6. I agree with you JK. The only sadness nor were the Hindus united during time of Aurangazeb nor they now. Current Aurangabad should be renamed to Sambhaji who sacrificed his life and did not convert himself to Muslim religion even under tremendous pressure.Aurangazeb tortured and killed him since Sambhaji managed to defeat Aurangazeb’s forces for continuosly nine years. Definitely Muslims oppressed Hindus but that was because Hindus were not united.

  7. Hey,

    Thanks for replying and sorry for the delay. I just wanted to complicate this picture. Of course Aurangzeb destroyed temples. But at the same time he gave grants too. And I believe both of us agree on this. And there is sufficient evidence for both arguments. We can keep piling up this evidence as happened in the Babri-Ayodhya debates and be oblivious to the other side, or we can open our eyes and realise that Aurangzeb actually did do both the things. We can look for smarter ways of explaining his (his govt’s actually and the same applies for all kings) actions or understand him to be the representative icon of all South Asian Muslims and simply say Muslims oppressed Hindus as is easy and convenient today. You could say that his plan was to destroy all Hindu temples all over India but that he died. But that is the stuff of counterfactuals not history, because the truth is that he both destroyed and furthered Hindu temples.

    Now I am just throwing in some possibilities. Maybe we need to look into the timing of the momentous occasions of breaking of the temples. If as you say Somnath was destroyed in 1706, it could have been a desperate way of rallying the Muslims of the Mughal empire (I mean officials not some small time guy named Abdul etc in some small village) together, when the empire was on the brink. I admit I do not have answers but all that I am saying is that the picture is very muddled and does not lend itself to such easy and bland interpretations as many other readers (above comments) would like them to be. But I am certain about the Dara Shikoh temples. Maybe Au… destroyed temples which had some importance for the Marathas, who at the same time were trying to put together a Hindu nation. And why should not the Rajputs not oppose them and be desirous of being captains of Hindus. After all, the Muslims were not united either, and still are not. Nobody was and is. The world is supposed to keep churning.

    I hope you do not take all this personally. Sorry if I offended you.

  8. Photonman,

    Let me put it another way.

    “The past is not dead. Its not even the past.”

    Get it if you can and happy smiling if you still find it funny. And yes do worry about Gandhi. Think about why his longest fast was against an Indian named Ambedkar and not against the British. The GoI never tells this in the textbooks. Worry about Au… too. God bless you. Keep smiling.

  9. ….ohh cumon guys…tis is just another fuss attempted to demonise muslim rulers in india….as is goin on since ages by the right wing fundamentalists type of ppl…muslim rulers are simply defamed inorder to show them in bad light and to defame islam….the old technique used by fanatics hindus to divide the contry on communal lines….theres a lot of misconceptions as far as JIZYA is concerned (not a new thing as there are lot of misunderstandings as far as islamic concepts are concerned)….try to give an unbiased thought or reading about JIZYA tax from the shariah so that one gets a clear idea…

  10. @prince_of_angels. please educate us and clear our misunderstandings on jaziya. i am curious to learn more and remove my ‘misunderstandings’

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