AURANGZIB, MUHI UDDIN MUHAMMAD ALAMGIR (1618-1707), the last of the great Mughal emperors of India, ascended the throne of Delhi on 21 July 1658 after he had gained a decisive victory in the war of succession at Samugarh, near Agra, on 29 May 1658. Aurangzib`s appointment in 1636 as viceroy of the Mughal provinces in the Deccan had first brought him into prominence. In 1645, he was transferred to Gujarat. Between 1648 and 1652, he served as governor of Sindh and Multan.

He was next entrusted with the task of recovering Qandahar, taken by the Persians in 1649. In 1653 he was appointed viceroy of the Deccan for the second time and for the next five years he was engaged in constant warfare with the independent states of Bijapur and Golconda. The first half of Aurangzib`s long reign was devoted to consolidating his power in northern India while the second half was spent in the fruitless attempt to conquer the Deccan.A pious man in his personal life, Aurangzib was an orthodox Muslim.

He had waded through a river of blood to reach the throne and had imprisoned his father and killed his own brothers. By his fanatical religious policy he wished to please the Muslim orthodoxy and win reprieve for the crimes he had committed to gain the crown. For the first ten years of his reign, he did not feel strong enough to take any drastic steps, but in 1669 he issued a rescript to all provincial governors “to destroy with a willing hand the schools and temples of the infidels and put an entire stop to their religious practices and teaching.” Among the many repressive edicts issued against the non-Muslims was one prohibiting all Hindus with the exception of Rajputs from riding palkis, elephants or thoroughbred horses and from carrying arms.

Most stringent was the imposition, in 1679, of jizyah, a tax the non-Muslims had to pay for permission to live in an Islamic State.The growing Sikh order had also to bear the brunt of Aurangzib`s policy of intolerance and religious persecution. The seventh Sikh Guru, Har Rai, was at Goindval when Dara Shukoh, heir apparent to the Mughal throne, entered the Punjab fleeing in front of the army of his brother, Aurangzib, after his defeat in the battle of Samugarh. At Goindval, where he arrived in the last week of June 1658, he called on Guru Har Rai, who, as the tradition goes, had once cured him of a serious illness with some rare herbs.

Highly coloured stories about Dara Shukoh`s meeting with Guru Har Rai were carried to Aurangzib by his officials who reported to him that Guru Har Rai was a rebel and that he had helped the fugitive prince and further that the Sikh Scripture contained verses derogatory to Islam. Aurangzib summoned the Guru to Delhi. As recorded in Santokh Singh, Sri Gur`Pratap Suraj Granth, Guru Har Rai wondered why he had been called to Delhi: “I rule Over no territory. I owe the king no taxes, nor do I want anything from him.

There is no connection of teacher and disciple between us, either. Of what avail will this meeting be ?” Guru Har Rai sent his elder son, Ram Rai, to meet the emperor. Ram Rai succeeded in winning the confidence of the Emperor, but overreached himself when, to please him, he deliberately misread one of the verses from the Guru Granth Sahib. Aurangzib decided to keep Ram Rai in Delhi in the belief that, with the future incumbent of the Guruship in his power, he would become the arbiter of the destiny of the Sikh people. For garbling the sacred text.

Guru Har Rai anathematized Ram Rai and chose his second son, Har Krishan, as his successor. The investiture of Har Krishan did not please Aurangzib who summoned the infant Guru to Delhi, with the intention of arbitrating between his claims and those of his elder brother, Ram Rai. Guru Har Krishan arrived in Delhi and was put up at the house of Mirza Raja Jai Singh of Amber.According to the Guru kian Sakhian, Guru Har Krishan visited the Emperor`s court on 25 March 1664, but owing to Aurangzib`s insistence that he show a miracle to prove his holiness he resolved never to see his face again.

A few days later, Guru Har Krishan was stricken with smallpox and he died on 30 March 1664. The responsibility of instructing the Sikh community and guiding its affairs now fell on Guru Tegh Bahadur, Nanak IX. As recorded in Bhatt Vahi Talauda, a group of Kashmiri pandits waited on him at Anandpur on 25 May 1675 and complained how Iftikhar Khan, Aurangzib`s satrap in Kashmir, had been making forcible conversions. Guru Tegh Bahadur is said to have advised his visitors to go and tell the authority in Delhi that if he (Guru Tegh Bahadur) was converted, they would all voluntarily accept Islam.

Resolved to lay down his life to redeem freedom of belief. Guru Tegh Bahadur set out for Delhi.Under the orders of the Emperor, he was taken into custody on 12 July 1675 at Malikpur Rarighrari, near Sirhind, and despatched to Delhi. He was put in chains and on his refusal to renounce his faith was beheaded in public in the Chandni Chowk of Delhi on 11 November 1675, after three of his devoted disciples Bhai Dayal Das, Bhai Mati Das and Bhai Sati Das had been tortured to death before his eyes.

His son, Gobind Rai (later Gobind Singh), now succeeded to the spiritual throne of Guru Nanak. Aurangzib was occupied with his campaigns in the South, but his feudal vassals, the hill chieftains, resented the Guru`s presence in their midst. They were especially averse to the way the four castes mingled in the Sikh order. They plotted in collusion with the local Mughal officers and led out armies against Guru Gobind Singh.

After the battle of Nadaun, fought on 20 March 1691, in which the Mughal commander, Alif Khan was defeated, Aurangzib ordered his faujdars in the Punjab to restrain Guru Gobind Singh from holding assemblies of Sikhs and to demolish his hearth and home and banish him from the country if he departed ever so little from the ways of a faqir and did not cease to have himself addressed as Sachcha Padshah, the True King. On 13 July 1696, he sent his eldest son, Mu`azzam, who later succeeded to the throne of Delhi as Emperor Bahadur Shah, to settle affairs in the Punjab. Anandpur had been subject to constant raid and encroachment since 1700 but the fiercest onslaught made was in 1705 when the hill chiefs, aided by Mughal troops from Lahore and Sirhind, invested Guru Gobind Singh`s citadel, eventually forcing him to evacuate it on 56 December 1705.Reaching Dina, a village in present day Faridkot district of the Punjab, Guru Gobind Singh wrote to Aurangzib a letter in Persian verse called Zafarnamah, Epistle of Victory.

It was a severe indictment of Aurangzib, who was repeatedly upbraided for breach of faith in the attack made by his troops on the Sikhs after they had vacated Anandpur on solemn assurance of safe passage given them by him and his officers. The letter emphatically reiterated the sovereignty of morality in the affairs of State as much as in the conduct of individual human beings and regarded the means as important as the end. Absolute truthfulness was as much the duty of a sovereign as of any one of the ordinary citizens.Two of the Guru`s Sikhs, Daya Singh and Dharam Singh, were sent to deliver the Zafarnamah to Aurangzib, who was then camping in Ahmadnagar.

According to Ahkami`Alamgiri, the Emperor immediately sent through Muhammad Beg, a gurzbardar or macebearer, and Shaikh Yar Muhammad, a mansabdar, a farman to Mun`im Khan, deputy governor of Lahore, asking him to make peace with Guru Gobind Singh. He also invited the Guru for a personal meeting. The Guru kian Sakhian confirms the invitation sent by Aurangzib and mentions two gurzbardars accompanying Bhai Daya Singh and Bhai Dharam Singh back to the Punjab. But before the Guru could see the Emperor, the latter died on 20 February 1707.

References :

1. Sarkar, SirJadunath, A Short History of Aurangzib. Calcutta, 1962
2. Majumdar, R.C., ed.. The History and Culture of the Indian People, vol. VIII. Bombay, 1974
3. Jaffar, S.M., The Mughal Empire. Delhi, 1974
4. Gupta, Hari Ram, History of the Sikhs, vol. I, Delhi,1973
5. Sharma, Sri Ram, Religious Policy of the Mughal Emperors. Bombay, 1962