Aurangzeb seized absolute control of the throne in 1661 after murdering Dara Shikoh, instigating the execution of Shah Shuja in the hands of local rulers of Burma, executing his younger brother Murad Bakhsh in jail and imprisoning his father, Shah Jahan.
Memoirs and court records graphically describe his fanaticism and deep roots in Islamic fundamentalism. He is undoubtedly the most radical Muslim invader who ruled over Akhanda Bharat.
His entire reign of terror is an endless list of savagery, atrocities and deplorable persecution of Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists. In short, it can be categorically stated that there has never been a greater enemy to the heritage of Akhanda Bharat and Hindus than the desert barbarian Aurangzeb.
The only reason Hindus survived his heinous forms of torture was the grit and will of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, the true and rightful emperor of Akhanda Bharat. Raje is universally recognized as the saviour of Hindus and Akhanda Bharat and his ambition of Hindavi Swarajya prevented the complete degradation of Hindus.
Aurangzeb was also worried about a possible alliance between the Rajputs and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and the Marathas that would seriously threaten his dominance over Akhanda Bharat. He began a covert operation to convert a significant number of Rajputs who had sworn allegiance to the Mughals from the time of Babur to embrace Islam with the promise of jagirs. He succeeded to a great extent as Rajputs who converted in this period are still practising Islam.
Aurangzeb tried to hide his disdain for Hindus, the Sanskrit language and temples for the first two years as he was busy crushing rebellions and stamping his authority over the natives of Akhanda Bharat.
Two years into his rule, Aurangzeb began to execute his well-thought-out plan to establish an Islamic state of Bharat. In 1659, he ordered that as per Islamic fundamentalism, all “infidels” must be “shown the right path” and converted to Islam using “persuasive” methods. He ordered the demolition of the famed Shri Krittivaseshwar Mahadev Temple in 1659 and built the Alamgir Mosque in its place.
Aurangzeb then banned all the dissemination of Hindu texts and sacred scriptures. Banaras, since the dawn of time was a reputed seat of learning and education drawing Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Jains from across the lands.
When Aurangzeb was informed by his spies that despite his dictum prohibiting all Hindu teaching and learning, Hindus continued to go to Banaras for education, he issued another order on 18 April 1669 to the governors to destroy all Hindu schools and temples. An order to enforce Islam across all provinces of the Mughals was also passed. The festivals of Diwali and Holi were ruthlessly suppressed.
Aurangzeb who was known for his religious intolerance and penchant for tormenting Hindus demanded periodical reports of the actual results. This order excluded Hindus from holding public offices and organizing fairs, festivals and religious ceremonies and imposed a fine on them for their religious affinity.
The overzealous slaves of Aurangzeb razed the grand temples of Viswanatha and Bindu Madhav to the ground and built mosques on their sites. Aurangzeb was mighty pleased on receiving this report from Banaras.
He sought to further gain the praise of the Mahomedan orthodoxy and gave a clarion call to his men to plunder and destroy all revered places of worship. His outburst of fanaticism reached its zenith on 4 September 1669 when he issued the barbarous order to desecrate the ancient Kashi Vishwanathji Temple.
He tried to rename the city Muhammadabad and released coins bearing that name but none of the stunned citizens wanted to touch the tainted coins. Aurangzeb proclaimed himself as the true propitiator of Islam and claimed in his book Fatawa ‘Alamgiri that the only true service and occupation of any Muslim is jihad.
After Aurangzeb came to know that Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj had taken refuge in Banaras in 1666, he razed over one thousand temples to the ground and built mosques over their foundations. This trail of destruction continued till early January 1705.
Every mosque built on the debris of temples has ornate pillars of an older Hindu temple, arched openings covering the elaborate carvings on the roofs and ceilings and cladding hiding the inscriptions, niches and sculptures. One can see the original temple in several mosques where the structure is damaged.
The horrific desecration of temples built since the dawn of time, burning of rare Hindu texts and treatises and loot of prized gems, jewels and artefacts from the temples pained and affronted devout Hindus. The city built from the Vedic Period had reached great heights of glory by the 12th century and was now nothing more than a shadow of its former self.
Aurangzeb continued in his tyrannical ways giving a free hand to his men to slay, raid, imprison and bury alive non-Muslims. This became a common occurrence in every part of Akhanda Bharat. Hindu women were raped by his army in turns and carried off to become slaves. Hindu men were beaten to death if they refused to convert, their belongings confiscated and their daughters and wife assaulted, stripped and raped in front of them.
The most abominable act of Aurangzeb was to slaughter cows and force severely injured and dying pious Hindus to drink its blood and press their faces into their slit necks.
Not one single structure from the Vedic Period, Maukharis of Kannauj and the Kalachuris was seen in the city. The sacred city of unparalleled beauty had been completely destroyed and disappeared by the end of the 17th century.
Successive Mughals were as merciless as Aurangzeb and followed his lead in ensuring complete ruin of non-Muslims. The Marathas who slowly rose to power in 1680 became the biggest patrons in the holy cities rebuilding temples, ghats and dharmashalas.
The hollow, unjust, corrupt and sadistic show of strength by Aurangzeb, his descendants and the Mughal army was exposed by the Marathas time and time again. The decline of the Mughals can be traced back to the miraculous escape of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj from captivity as Raje was forever on Aurangzeb’s mind till his last breath.
In conclusion, it can be said that by the end of his reign, Aurangzeb who had waged war with the Marathas for twenty-five years and had only pyrrhic victories to his credit undid all that his ancestors particularly Akbar and Shah Jahan had achieved. The treasury was depleted and many generals who had been quiet when he was alive now claimed their independence on the pretext of being loyal to the sitting Mughal king.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Photos are only symbolic (Taken from public domain/internet and any copyright infringement is unintentional and regrettable)
* Information about History of Banaras is taken from archives