Aurangzeb (1618-1707), was an emperor who ruled what is now India and Pakistan from 1658 until his death. During his reign as monarch of the Mughal Empire, he conquered several states in southern India.
Aurangzeb, a devout Muslim, tried to make all his people follow the doctrines of Islam, the Muslim religion. He differed from Akbar in consciously tolerating Hindus rather than treating them as equals. He placed special taxes on Hindus and destroyed Hindu temples and images, such as the destruction of Kashi Vishwanath temple and erection of a mosque in its place. Aurangzeb also destroyed many works of art because he feared that they might be worshipped as idols.
Aurangzeb was born in Dohad, near Ahmadabad. In a struggle for the throne, Aurangzeb murdered his three other brothers, including the crown prince Dara Shukoh, and deposed Shah Jahan, the reigning emperor, to seize the throne for himself. Shah Jahan died a prisoner in the fortress of Agra. Aurangzeb's reign was one of the longest in the history of the Mughal dynasty. His rebellion and acts of cruelty toward his family at first aroused public horror and dislike. Yet there was no law recognized in Islamic states to nominate a legal successor to the king. The succession was often settled by wars and by murders.
The new emperor, Aurangzeb, was a strict Muslim. To begin with, he followed the policy of making peace with the non-Muslim peoples he conquered and bringing them into the imperial service. But the policy broke down, and in the latter part of his reign, Aurangzeb imposed a much stricter form of Islamic rule. In 1679, he reintroduced the jiziya, a poll tax on non-Muslims. Militarily, Aurangzeb set out to protect his northern borders and subdue the independent Muslim kingdoms in the Deccan and south India. By 1690, the whole of the Indian subcontinent lay within the Mughal Empire.
Aurangzeb won swift political and military success, through his abilities as a soldier and politician. But his conquests brought him great trouble toward the end of his reign. The wars were expensive and the military officers were rewarded for their service by the grant of new jagirs. The jagir-holders taxed the peasants mercilessly, causing many to flee from the villages. Much land was left uncultivated as a result.
Aurangzeb's reign was troubled by developments in west and south India. As early as the 1660's, Shivaji, a Hindu chief of western India, had built up a strong private army and begun to raid Mughal towns and cities. He captured and sacked the great port of Surat. Shivaji's followers, known as the Marathas, were very good cavalry fighters. They took all the strong fortresses from the Mughal governors. Aurangzeb had to fight the Marathas, and many other local chiefs in the south, who were constantly rebelling against Mughal rule and trying to reestablish their independence.
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