Humayun and His Nobility

So far as the problem of the nobility is concerned, one important development took place during the last one year of Babur’s reign. This development was apparently the withdrawal of almost the entire set of the Indian nobles (i.e., the Afghans & the Shaikhzadas) from the Mughal service, which naturally once again created a situation in which the Timurid ruler in Hindustan had to administer Hindustan with the help of Turani nobles exclusively, i.e., those who came with Babur from Kabul including Khurasan etc.

This is suggested by two kinds of evidence from Humayun’s reign: One are those which go to positively indicate that many shaikhzadas & Afghan nobles were now in rebellion against Humayun. The whole Nauhani clan controlling Bihar, Shaikh Bibban & Shaikh Bayazid, who had earlier joined Babur’s service were in rebellion. Most probably, a majority of these nobles had left in the last year of Babur’s reign, a period when we have no detailed contemporary account.

This is also borne out partly by the negative evidence to the effect that most of these Afghans and Shaikhzadas mentioned by Babur holding wajh are not mentioned in the accounts of this period.

Putting together both these positive and negative evidences, it appears that most of the Afghan and shaikhzada nobles had withdrawn. Net result was that the Mughal ruler had again become dependent on Turanis who had their own limitations. They had no roots in the Indian society. Secondly, they had great pretensions about their privileges and perquisites. They were very sensitive of these: some privileges, as we have earlier seen, were underlined by the influence of the Mongol traditions in the working of the Timurid polity.

Babur was able to tackle them and use them effectively in Hindustan. Most of the Turani nobles who came to Hindustan with Babur were devoted to his person and had served him in very difficult conditions. Further, as a result of the successful leadership of Babur, they had great faith in his person.

Then, they had been raised to high positions by Babur himself. Out of the senior nobles, whom Babur inherited from Umar Shaikh Mirza, most had been eliminated by a variety of reasons. By the time Babur had established himself at Kabul, the majority were those raised to high positions and office by Babur himself. Babur himself observes that before setting out for Hindustan in 1525, he had given enmass promotions to his troopers and petty officers (yikitlars & ichikis) so that he was able to overcome the problem of paucity of high nobles (begs) in his party. Thus they were Babur’s creatures and thus remained loyal to him when certain measures of Babur (like 30 % reduction of wajh) hurt them.

Under Humayun some nobles did not show the same kind of loyalty as shown to Babur. Humayun found it difficult to control, manage or discipline them. In addition, this problem was further complicated on account of Humayun’s extreme unpopularity with an influential section of the Turani nobility.

That Humayun wa unpopular, is borne out by the evidence we have regarding the so-called Mir Khalifa’s Conspiracy. The evidence to this conspiracy is provided by Nizamuddin Bakhshi who says that his father Mohd.Muqim Harvi, who was in Babur’s service as a diwan-i buyutat, told him that when Babur was lying critically ill, his wakil, Mir Khalifa, decided to put up Babur’s son-in-law Mahdi Khwaja as the possible successor. But one day, while Mahdi Khwaja was talking in a menacing manner about Mir Khalifa in private, it was heard by Muqim Harvi, who reported it to the wakil. Thereupon Mir Khalifa changed his view and withdrawing support from Mahdi Khwaja, invited Humayun and assured him of support in succession.

This narration of Nizamuddin Bakhshi on the authority of his father is a centre of controversy amongst modern historians.

Important point is that at one point of time, just before his coming to the throne, Humayun was not looked upon with favour by a section of senior nobility represented by Mir Khalifa.

This story is borne out by Abu’l Fazl in an oblique manner in his Akbarnama.

Another indication of this lack of support between Humayun and an influential group of Turani officers, was a revolt of Muhammad Zaman Mirza which took place according to Tarikh-i Ilchi-i Nizam Shah preserved in Persia. The author, Khawr Shah bin Qibad al-Husaini, was an ambassador of Bahmani Kingdom to the Safavid court sometime before 1565-70.

In this work, it is pointedly mentioned that Muhammad Zaman Mirza revolted just after Humayun’s accession. This is at variance with time given in other sources where mention is made to this incident in 1533-34. But a much earlier source mentions it as the first important event after Humayun’s accession.

Thus the clans of Mirzas were also alienated from Humayun and they revolted. This development assumes significance if seen in the background of total support which Turani nobility gave to Babur.

This is the first case of the revolt of Turanis against the Mughal emperor. This again, is an indication of a change in the attitude towards Humayun.

This should be before us when we say that Humayun had no complete command and thus complicated his position with his nobility as such.

To begin with, this was the nature of the problems with nobility.

Probably it was as a result of this that Humayun initiated a number of steps to re-organise his nobility. These measures, as mentioned by Khwand Amīr would be discussed separately elsewhere. Possibly these administrative steps were not sufficient to solve the issues, but to escalate the ensuing conditions further.

If the post-1535 period is any indication, this type of re-organization further complicated the situation by provoking the nobles further. It further widened the cleavage between him and the senior nobles whose privileges he was trying to curtail.

We find that as the military pressure against Humayun increased, the tendency on the part of the Turani nobles to defy his authority, to disown him and to think in terms of setting up his brothers against him went on steadily increasing. This process became quite manifest from 1536 onwards.

In 1536, or the close of 1535, we come across an incident of gross indiscipline and disobedience by a considerable number of officers in Gujarat. In fact at Champaner, when Humayun camped, 400 Mughal (petty) officers deserted him and proceeded towards Ahmadnagar. They were pursued and arrested. All of them were put to death in a most savage manner.

Humayun’s perturbed mind can be seen from the fact that the very next day of execution, he also put to death the imam of the royal camp on the charge that the imam had recited in the evening prayers a verse from the Holy Quran in which a general disapproval of cruelty to servants and sub-ordinates is conveyed.

This indicates anxiety of Humayun on this development as desertion had taken place while on march to Gujarat. It is also an indication of the great cleavage between Humayun and his nobility. Before, under Babur, nobles would stand like rock even in the most difficult situations. Now even minor officers were defying Humayun in a difficult situation.

Next year in 1536, one of the senior nobles in Gujarat, Ghazanfar Koka deserted. He was a Turani. He deserted with 300 horsemen and joined Bahadurshah in his counter-offensive against the Mughals.

One further matter took place the same year at Champaner. When Bahadurshah had evicted the Mughal officers from the coastal region, the Mughal officers greatly panicked and all of them led by Mirza Askari came to Champaner. There Mirza Askari was adviced by some of his trusted nobles that he should declare himself an independent king of Gujarat. Argument was that the Mughal hold over Gujarat could be maintained only if Askari declared as king otherwise the local chiefs would not be reconciled and they would rally around Bahadurshah. Humayun at this time was at Malwa.

There was a tussle between Tardi Beg and Mirza Askari. Tardi Beg was guarding the fort and the treasury. Askari asked for it on pretext of organizing an army. Tardi Beg was ready and finally Askari and Yadgar Mirza proceeded to Agra without working for Humayun. General suspicion was that Askari would be declared as the rival king and fore-stall Humayun’s coming back.

Thus with the increase in military pressure, Humayun’s complications with the nobility was increasing. This alienation came to a point of no return during the Bengal campaign. It was this crisis with nobility which resulted in Humayun’s defeat against Sher Khan. At Chausa in 1539 and then at Qannauj in 1540 Humayun was routed due to his bad relations with his nobles.

We find that when Humayun was still in Bengal, some of his highly placed nobles whom he had stationed for guarding the route connecting Gaur with Agra deserted Humayun at a very critical juncture. They were according to Abul Fazl, Khusrau Beg Kokaltash, Haji Muhammad Koki, Zahid Beg and Mirza Nazar. They came to Koil which was in Zahid Beg’s jagir. From here they sent a message to Mirza Hindal who at that time was at Alwar:

“Henceforth we do not serve the king, if you, as you have already proposed, will have the khutba read in your name, we will enter your service and render you faithful allegiance; otherwise we shall go to Mirza Kamran where happiness and a welcome are awaiting for us.”

Then we also know about the behaviour of nobles at Agra and Delhi during Humayun’s absence. Both Gulbadan and Mirza Haider Dughlat inform that it was because of the pressure of nobles present at Agra and Delhi that Kamran did not proceed to Chausa to rescue Humayun. They thought that if the king returns in victory, he would take them to task, otherwise he woud deal with them leniently.

This shows the loss of confidence and faith in Humayun by a large section of noble’s community. Nobility had reached a point by 1539 that when Humayun offered the governorship of Bengal to Zahid Beg, he contemptuously turned down the offer and retorted back in the presence of other nobles that: “Couldn’t you find a better place to get me killed”. After making this impolite reply, he deserted Humayun and went to Loil.

If this is taken along with another independent piece of evidence, the picture becomes clearer.

Masum Bhakkari in his Tarikh-i Sind  says two of Shah Husain Arghun’s emissaries, whom he had sent to Bengal (Gaur) to congratulate Humayun for his success, started from Humayun’s camp for Sind on the eve of Humayun’s decision to withdraw from there. The report which these two brought of the condition in the Mughal camp testify that almost the entire nobility was in a rebellious mood and the king had lost all control over the army. They predicted that Humayun would soon meet catastrophe.

Thus this independent source also points in the same direction that the nobles were completely alienated from Humayun.

These evidences put together also indicate that the measures of Humayun as given in Khwandmir’s account remained un-accounted and that by 1535 the position reached a point of no return. 

Now the question arises: why this crisis of Humayun accentuated in such a dramatic manner during this period?

One fact was the failure of the scheme he worked out. This utopian scheme further added to the confusion due to loss of trust between nobles and the king.

Then Humayun’s own erratic behaviour in post-1538 period was also responsible for the loss of confidence in his leadership on the part of the nobles. During this time we find on the one hand Humayun insisted upon divine origin of his power or Jalwa-i Quds: shutting himself for months with no social meetings with nobles.

On the other hand he was gradually very lenient with the nobles and was not taking any stern action or measure for disciplining them. The episode in Gujarat is an exception. This is borne out by the fact that none of the high nobles who rebelled by 1535, as well as those who deserted him in Bengal or Agra, or who behaved in an insolent manner like Zahid Beg at Gaur, were given any punishment. They would be pardoned and restored. This lenient attitude was in contrast to the high claims he made. This was a contradiction which convinced the nobles that Humayun would not provide a right leadership.

Ther is also evidence to suggest that in 1535-40 Humayun had developed a psychic problem. For example, he claimed that his defeat at Chausa was the result of Divine intervention on Sher Shah’s side: “I saw myself horsemen wearing green garments descending from the sky and joining Sher Shah’s forces.”

Again, his behaviour during his 6 – 7 months that separated the battle of Chausa from that of Kannauj was erratic. He was not able to devote himself to mobilize forces. During this time he resorted to gimmicks which were censored by Kamran & others. One was placing on throne Nizam Saqqa, the water carrier for three days. Kamran protested these frivolous orders. He said this is the time of war.

So this erratic behaviour was an important factor for the complete loss of faith among the nobles. That is why in the final battle at Kannauj, the issue was decided in favour of the Afghans not due to the inherent weakness of the Mughals but as a direct result of the dis-integration of the Mughal army organization which had become totally demoralized due to the absence of any rapport between the emperor and his nobles.

A few passages of the account of the Battle of Kannauj, given by Mirza Haider Dughlat in Tarikh-i Rashidi, show that the Mughal defeat was not a military defeat, but a collapse of the organization.

Referring to the behaviour of the nobles at Kannauj, Dughlat writes:

“Now (at Kannauj) having colluded with Sher Khan, he (Muhammad Zaman Mirza) deserted. A new way was thus opened. Every body began to desert and most surprising point of it was that many of those who deserted did not go over to Sher Khan ans so could expect no favour from him.

An excited feeling ran through the army and the cry was ‘Let us go and rest in our homes’. A number of Kamrani auxiliaries also abandoned the king and fled to Lahore.

Between me and the river (Ganges) there was a force of 27 Amirs, all of whom carried the tugh (banner). In this position also, were the other components of the left wing, and they must be judged by the others. On the day of the Battle, when Sher Khan, having formed his divisions marched out, of all these 27 tugh not one was to be seen, for the great nobles had hidden them, in the apprehension that the enemy might advance upon them. The soldiership of the Amirs may be conceived from this exhibition of courage.

Before the enemy had discharged an arrow the whole army had scattered and defeated. I had estimated the Chaghtais as numbering 40,000 men excluding the camp followers and workmen. They fled before 10,000 men and Sher Shah gained a victory while the Chaghtai were defeated in this battlefield where not a man, either friend or foe, was wounded; not a gun was fired and the chariots were useless.”

These passages more than support the contention that this was not a defeat but the disintegration of the Timurid nobility due to a deepening crisis in 1542.

In 1541 Kamran proclaimed himself a rival king. This led to a radical shift in the situation. Henceforth there existed a state of civil war between Humayun and Kamran for possession of the Timurid territories especially in the Kabul, Qandahar and Badakhshan region. This civil war came to an end only with Mirza Kamran’s defeat and blinding in 1553. the Mughal nobility tried to use this situation for extending its own area of privileges by playing up one brother against the other. They were repeatedly changing sides throughout this time which actually was the basic factor behind the prolongation of the civil war for such a long time.

In 1541 the nobles rallied around Kamran which reduced Humayun to the desparate position of a wanderer in the Sind region and later a fugitive at Shah Tahmasp’s court.

But the same nobles, once they joined Kamran, started conspiring against him also. One additional factor making impossible to keep the nobles contended was the paucity of resources in this region, which were not sufficient for keeping all the nobles in service employed gainfully and paid properly for the services. This was additional to the high claims to privileges and benefits which these nobles had from early period. It was also in addition to the fact that they had become habitual conspirators. That is why we find that when Humayun returned in 1545 to Kabul, they deserted Kamran and joined Humayun. But they deserted Humayun again in 1547 and again tried to bolster Kamran’s position by joining him. Once again they revolted in 1550. This was possible for them because of the situation created by Kamran as a rival king. 

Before 1540 Kamran had no claim of being a rival of Humayun. He ruled before as a semi-independent ruler. He would also mention Humayun as Sultan-i Azam and Khaqaz-i muazzam. He refused to do so only after 1541. Coins issued now did not include Humayun’s name, but his own name had titles of khaqan and sultan.

Relations after Humayun’s Return from Iran

After his return from Persia, from 1545, he did not resort to the gimmicks as before. Now jalwa-i quds is not referred to nor his insistence of nobles standing at a long distance from him. Now he organized festivities and mixed with nobles on a social plain.

Gulbadan says that on the occasion of Akbar’s circumcision in 1545, Humayun organized a wrestling bout where he wrestled with Imam Quli Quchi who was one of his nobles. This was un-imaginable in 1540!

He came in drinking parties and played cards in sharp contrast to the early period. But he had also become very exacting on his demands upon the nobles. He dealt with, particularly the Abbysinian nobles who were comparatively prominent, in a most stern manner. During this period Humayun had the tendency to punish these nobles severely even on slightest suspicion of disaffection. During this period he was also responsible for executing a large number of senior nobles. He made the beginning in this regard with a prince of royal blood – Mirza Yadgar Nasir who was put to death in 1546 on the suspicion that he was planning to cross over to Kamran. Similarly 14 other highly placed nobles were also put to death. Amongst them were Qarachar Beg, Dindar Beg, Haji Muhammad Khoki and his brother Shah Muhammad Khoki. They were punished for crimes committed not only in the present time but also those committed before 1540. Thus a mention was also made of disloyalties which they had committed before 1540.

Most interesting case is that of Haji Mohd Khoki who had instigated Kamran to proclaim, rebelled in Gujarat, but remained with Humayun after 1541 and had accompanied him to Persia. In 1551 when Haji Muhammad was suspected of having links with Kamran, he was arrested from his charge of Ghazni and personally interrogated by Humayun. During his interrogation, Haji Mohd argued of being loyal and the charge being false. To this Humayun replied that alright, I want to take final decision on this but I would ask one known enemy to prepare a list of insubordination to me, while you prepare a list of distinctive services you did to the emperor. If the lsit of crimes is larger than your list, you would be put to death. Eventually the crimes were more than the services and he was put to death. His brother was also executed.

Jauhar Aftabchi says that at one occasion, Humayun was on the march, he came across a water channel near Qipchak:

“His Majesty drove his horse into the channel, but nonr of the troops accompanying him followed his example. All the troops remained on the bank of that rivulet. HM said to them ‘Ill-mannered ones [ay be tamizan] at one occasion Shah Ismail had dropped his handkerchief from the top of the hill. His ten thousand Qurchi’s jumped after that handkerchief and then got themselves killed. On the other hand, not even one soldier amongst you thought it fit to go along with his king. With this sort of troops how can things improve?”

Thus we find that Humayun tried to impose the model way rigorously. He meant business this time. This changed mood of Humayun and the model relationship was a very important new factor which accounted for the elimination of high placed nobles between 1549-51.

His struggle with Kamran was by proxy a struggle with his nobility. In the course of this struggle, senior nobles gradually were eliminated from the scene – some were executed by Humayun, some by Kamran, others fell to natural death, while some became casualties in the civil war. Net result was that the entire senior group was eliminated from the scene. Those who remained were devoted to him. In fact only two survived Humayun – Bairam Khan and Tardi Beg. Tardi Beg had also eclipsed between 1547-53 and regained again in the last one year of Humayun’s reign (1554).

In place of this group, Humayun promoted a new group of younger officers to the top-most positions. They were mainly Turanis promoted from the ranks of petty nobles. A number of Iranis were also recruited in the nobility during his stay in Persia. In fact we can give a whole list of such officers: Munim Khan Chaghtai, Khwaja Jalaluddin Beg, a Khurasani, Ali Quli and Bahadur, the two Uzbeks recruited in Persia. Husain Quli sultan of Persia in 1545 and then a number of new Turani names not mentioned earlier or who were petty officers, e.g., Balku Beg, Haider Muhammad Khan etc.

Thus now in his new nobility:

1) Some were Iranis

2) Majority were Turanis who hade been raised by Humayun from low ranks to high during this period.

This set of nobles was a composite set of very young nobles who remained throughout loyal to him.

It was with the help of this new section that after his return from Persia, Humayun was able to crush Kamran and the senior nobles conspiring for him.

These nobles had an entirely different outlook in the sense that being Humayun’s own creation, they were loyal to him.

Another important aspect is that as a result of their experiences during the period of Humayun’s exile & civil war, they had come to the conclusion that their own interest would be served only if the Mughal Empire was re-established on a firm footing. Humayun had tried to get Balkh, but had failed.

If they had to survive as a group, they had no option but to help Humayun. This is fully borne out by the manner in which these nobles behaved.

We know that when in 1553 Humayun decided to invade Kashmir, these loyal nobles went to him en mass and pleaded that he should not allow the Mughal resources to be wasted in expeditions like that. They insisted for the conquest of Hindustan. They were so determined that when he tried to make them go to Kashmir, they flouted his orders and forced him to withdraw them.

It was this section which helped in re-establishing the Mughals and survival of the Mughals in India. The case in point can be Bairam Khan and his regency.

• Syed Ali Nadeem Rezavi

Revisiting Aurangzeb [Urdu]

• Syed Ali Nadeem Rezavi

Translation: Dr Enayatullah Khan


The original article was published in The Frontline, 3rd August 2018. The Urdu translation by Dr Enayatullah Khan, Assistant Professor, Aliah University, Kolkata is being presented before you:

کیا اورنگ زیب ایک متعصب حکمراں تھا یا ایک ایسا حکمراں تھا جو کہ اسلام مذہب کا پیرو کار تھا اور ہندو مذہب کے ساتھ ہی ساتھ دوسرے مذاہب کو ختم کرنا چاہتا تھا؟- اور کیا اس نے مذہب کا استعمال اپنی سیاسی رسوخ کو بڑھانے کے لیے کیا؟ اس پس منظر میں نو آبادیاتی مو رخ (Colonial historians) جو سیف ڈیوی کننگھم Joseph Davey Cunningham سے لیکر سر جادو ناتھ سرکار، رام سرن شرما اور محمد اطہر علی ما ضی میں اسطرح کے سوالات اٹھا تے رہے ہیں- دور جدید کی مورخ اودرے ٹرسچکی Audrey Truchke نے بھی اس طرح کے سوالات کو اٹھا تے ہو ئے ‘ماخذ کے حوالے سے جواب دینے کی کوشش کی ہے-

تاریخ کے ما خذ کے مطا لوہے کے بعد اورنگزیب پر اسطرح کے جو الزامات لگا ئے جاتے رہے ہیں اس سے اورنگ زیب کو متشنی نہیں کیا جا سکتا- تاہم مزید تحقیق سے پتہ چلتا ہے کہ اورنگ زیب، اگرچہ ایک متعصب نہیں تھا، لیکن اپنے سیاسی مقاصد کو پورا کرنے کے لیے مذہب کا استعمال کرتا تھا- اس کے بر عکس اس نے میواڑ کے مہا رانہ’ رانا راج سنگھ، کو ایک نشان(خط) لکھ کر یہ اطلاع دی کہ وہ اکبر کے دور میں جس طرح کی پالیسی پر عمل درآمد کرتا تھا اسی پر کرتا رہے-

اورنگ زیب War of Succession کے بعد تخت نشیں ہوا تھا اور تخت نشینی کے پہلے دس سال تک جیل میں مقید باپ سے مسلسل اسے لڑنا پڑا، کیونکہ شاہ جہاں کا حیات سے رہنا اورنگ زیب کے لیے ایک مستقل خطرہ بنا ہوا تھا-

جانشیینی کی جنگ کا بغور مطالعہ کرنے پر پتہ چلتا ہے کہ یہ جنگ نہ تو فر قہ وارانہ بنیاد پر لڑی گئی اور نہ ہی دارہ شکوہ کی روا دارانہ پا لیسی، اور نہ ہی اورنگ زیب کی ہندو مخالف پا لیسی کی بنیاد پر لڑی گئی-

اورنگ زیب نے کبھی یہ دعویٰ نہیں کیا کہ وہ اسلام کا دفاع کر نے جا رہے ہیں، اور نہ ہی اسے یہ محسوس ہوا کہ اسلام کو شاہ جہاں یا دارہ شکوہ سے کوئی خطرہ لاحق ہے- لہذا جانشینی کے جنگ کے بعد ہندؤں اور راجپوتوں کے خلاف کسی بھی طرح کے امتیاز کا ذکر نہیں ملتا ہے۔

تخت سنبھالنے کے فوراً بعد اورنگ زیب نے راجہ رگھو ناتھ سنگھ کو اپنی سلطنت کا دیوان Diwan مقرر کیا جو کہ کھتری تھا- راجہ تو ڈر مل کی وفات کے بعد اورنگ زیب نے پہلی مرتبہ ایک ہندو کو دیوان مقرر کیا تھا جہانگیر کے دور میں راجہ مان سنگھ کے علاوہ کسی بھی غیر مسلم کو اہم صوبہ کا صو بیدار نہ تو جہانگیر کے دور میں مقرر کیا گیا اور نہ ہی شاہ جہاں کے دور میں-
اورنگ زیب نے دو اہم غیر مسلموں کو تقرری دی، جس میں ایک مہا راجہ جسونت سنگھ اور دوسرے مرزا راجہ جئے سنگھ، جس میں جسونت سنگھ کو گجرات کے صوبیداری کا عہدہ دیا جو کہ دھرمت کی جنگ Battle of Dharmat میں اورنگ زیب کے خلاف تھا اور خجواہا کی جنگ Battle of Khajua اورنگ زیب کے ساتھ غداری کیا تھا- گجرات اسوقت مغلیہ عہد میں معسیت کا مر کز رہا ہے اس کے باوجود مر زا راجہ جئے سنگھ، کو دکن کا وائسرائے بنایا جو کہ اسوقت صرف بادشاہ کے وارث کے لیے معین تھا- اس سے پتہ چلتا ہے کہ اورنگ زیب تعصب پسند نہیں تھا بلکہ وہ اہم عہدے پر لوگوں کی صلاحیت کی بنیاد پر مقرر کر رہا تھا- اس کے علاوہ دیگر امراء کے منصب کو بڑھایا گیا اور انہیں سلطنت کے اہم صوبے یعنی بنگال، گجرات اور بہار میں ہندو امراء کو بحیثیت دیوان مقرر کیا-

اورنگ زیب کے عہد میں دکنی افغا نوں کے علاوہ مر ہٹوں کو بھی حکومت سازی کے کام کے لیے مقرر کیا گیا، جس کی وجہ سے تورانی اور راجپوت امراء ناراض تھے۔ کیونکہ مرہٹوں اور افغا نوں کی تقرری سے کہیں نہ کہیں تو رانی امراء کا نقصان ہو رہا تھا-
مر ہٹوں اور افغا نوں کی بڑھتی شمولیت سے مغل افسر شاہی کو تقویت ملی- پروفیسر ایم اطہر علی کی تحقیق سے پتہ چلتا ہے کہ اورنگ زیب کے دور اقتدار میں کل 31% غیر مسلم حکومت کے مختلف شعبے میں کار کردگی انظام دے رہے تھے اس کے بر عکس کبر کے عہد میں ان کی کل تعداد 22% تھی-

اورنگزیب کے عہد کے دوسرے نصف میں مر ہٹوں کی انتظامی امور میں شمولیت سے مراد یہ بالکل نہیں تھا کہ اورنگ زیب، اکبر سے زیادہ سیکولر تھا- یہ ایک انتظامی ضرورت تھی اور اس امر کے ذریعے دکن کے ریاستوں کو مغل ریاستوں میں ملحق کر نا تھا اور یہ مغل بادشاہوں کی سیاسی ضرورت تھی-

ہمیں اس بات کو بھی یاد رکھنا چا ہیے کہ مغل بادشا ہوں میں اورنگ زیب واحد ایک ایسا بادشاہ ہے جس نے مندروں کو سب سے زیادہ امداد دیا، جس کی ایک مشال ورنداون کا مندر ہے-

اورنگ زیب نے خود کو اپنے والد(شاہ جہاں ) سے زیادہ تخت کا حقدار شابت کرنے کے لیے اس نے فتح کی پا لیسی شروع کی- لیکن بد قسمتی سے اورنگ زیب کی زیادہ تر اسطرح کی پالیسی نا کامیاب رہی’ جس میں میر جملہ آسام میں لڑتے ہوئے مارا گیا، اور دکن میں شیواجی نے شاہستہ خان کے خواب گاہ میں حملہ کر دیا- حالانکہ مر زا راجہ جئے سنگھ 1665 میں شیواجی کے ساتھ پو سندھی کا معاہدہ کرنے میں کامیاب تو ہو گیا، لیکن معاہدہ اسوقت ختم ہو گیا جب شیواجی آگرہ سے فرار ہو گیا-

اورنگ زیب کی جب Military expedition نا کام ہوئیں تو یکےبعد دیگر ے کئی بغاو تیں ہو ئی، جیسے 1667 میں یو صفزئی بغاوت، 1669 میں جاٹ بغاوت، 1672میں ستنامی بغاوت، 1674 میں آفریدی بغاوت کا سامنا کرنا پڑا، اور 1675 مت شیواجی نے خود کو بادشاہ علان کر دیا- لہذا یہ عیاں ہو جاتی ہے کہ اورنگ زیب کو سیاسی محاذ میں کوئی خاطر خواہ کامیابی نہیں ملی-

اورنگ زیب کو اس بات کا بھی احساس ہو چکا تھا کہ اس کے بہت سے عمل کی وجہ سے Institution of Monarchy کو ٹھیس پہنچی ہے- لہذا جب سیاسی محاذ پر نا کامیابی کا سامنا کرنا پڑا تو اسے چھپانے کیلئے اس نے شریعی قانون پر زور دیا-

اورنگ زیب اپنے سیاسی مفادات کو پورا کرنے اور اپنی نا کامیابیوں پر پردہ ڈالنے کے لیے مذہب کا استعمال کر نا شروع کر دیا تھا’ جب ۱۶۷۵ میں شیواجی’ خود کو دکن کے بادشاہت کا علان کر دیا- ٹھیک اسی سال کشمیر اور پنجاب کے علاقے میں ایک مسئلہ پیش آیا، وہ مسئلہ یہ تھا کہ کشمیر اور پنجاب میں اورنگ زیب کے اہلکاروں نے غیر مسلموں کو اسلام قبول کر نے پر مجبور کر نے کی کوشش کی، جسکی گرو تیغ بہادر نے مخالفت کی اور اورنگ زیب کے خلاف لوگوں کو ورغلایا، اور گرو تیغ بہادر نے ان لوگوں کے خلاف کارروائی بھی کی جو اسطرح کی حرکتوں میں ملوث تھے اور اورنگ زیب کے خلاف بغاوت پر آما دہ ہو گئے-جوابی کاروائی میں’گرو تیغ بہادر کو گرفتار کیا گیا اور بالاخر ۱۶۷۵ میں پھانسی دے دیا گیا-

جو سف ڈیوی کننگھم (Joseph Davey Cunningham ) کے مطابق، اس واقع کو سمجھنے کے لیئے اس وقت کے تاریخی واقعات سے واقف ہونا ضروری ہے کہ جب تیغ بہادر اپنے والد گرو ہر گوبند کو نظر انداز کر کے، گرو ہر کشن کی موت کے سات سال بعد سکھوں کا سربراہ بنا-
گرو ہر کشن کے دور میں، ان کے بڑے بھائی رام رائے نے، جو کہ خود گرو بننا چاہتا تھا ان کے خلاف مسلسل سازشیں کر تا رہا اور سر کردہ سکھ رہنماؤں کے ساتھ مل کر لوبنگ (Lobbying) کی اور کسان برادری کو یہ باور کرانے کی کوشش کی کہ وہی در حقیقت گرو نانک کے عقیدہ کا وارث ہے- موت کے قبل گرو ہر کشن نے یہ تاثر بھی دیا کہ گرو تیغ بہادر اگلے ‘گرو’ ہو نگے، لہذا حالات کا فائدہ اٹھا تے ہوئے ، گرو تیغ بہادر نے چارج سنبھالا اور سیاسی اتحاد بنانے کے ساتھ ہی ساتھ اپنی آمدنی میں اضافہ کر نے کی کوشش میں لگ گئیں، تاکہ “Guruhood” کا جو دوسرے لوگ دعویٰ کر رہے تھے انکا مقابلہ کیا جا سکے- کننگھم کے مطابق، گرو اور انکے شاگردوں نے ” ہانسی اور ستلج ندی کے درمیان لوٹ مار کر کے انہیں (گرو تیغ بہادر) کو کسانوں میں غیر مقبول بنا دیا “، اسکے علاوہ ان لوگوں نے “ایک شدت پسند مسلم، آدم حافظ کے ساتھ بھی اتحاد کیا اور امیر ہندووں اور مسلمانوں کو چندہ دینے کے لئے مضبور کیا”-

کننگھم مزید فرماتے ہیں کہ گرو نے فرار یوں کو بھی پناہ دیا تھا- اور تیغ بہادر کے خلاف رام رائے نے بھی شہنشاہ سے شکایت کی تھی۔ اور اسطرح سے گرو ہر کشن کی طرح گرو تیغ بہادر پر بھی ” Pretender to Power” کا الزام لگایا گیا- اسطرح گرو تیغ بہادر کو پھانسی بلاشبہ مذہبی اختلاف کی وجہ سے دیا گیا، کیونکہ گرو نے اورنگ زیب کے اہلکاروں کے ذریعے تبدیلی مذہب کے خلاف آواز بلند کیا تھا-

ہم لوگ جانتے ہیں کہ اورنگ زیب نے جسطرح سے تخت پر بیٹھا تھا اس سے Institution of Monarchy کمزور ہوا تھا لہذا، اسطرح کے واقعات سے بچنے کے لیئے اورنگ زیب کو چاہیے تھا کہ Institution of Monarchy کے وقار کو بحال کرتا، جسے وہ نہیں کر پا یا لہذا اسی وجہ کر اورنگ زیب نے مذہبی تقدس کو باد شا ہت کے ادارے سے جو ڑنے کی دانستہ کوشش کی-
لہذا اورنگ زیب نے اپنے آپکو “عا لمگیر” (دنیا کو فتح کرنے والا) اور ” زندہ پیر” (Living Saint) کہلا نا پسند کیا- فوجی مہم (Military Expedition ) کے ذریعے اورنگ زیب خود کو طاقتور شابت کرنے کی کوشش تو کی، لیکن وہ اس میں ناکام رہا کیونکہ شاہ جہاں کے دور سے ہی قدرتی جغرافیائی رکاوٹیں آنے لگی تھی- اسطرح جب وہ سیاسی محاذ پر ناکام رہا، تو اسکے خلاف لگاتار بغا و تیں ہونے لگی(جسکا ذکر قسط-۱ میں کیا گیا ہے) – لہذا اسنے اپنی نا کام پالیسیوں پر پردہ ڈالنے کے لئے شر یعت کا استعمال بطور ڈھال کیا- بلا آخر ۱۶۷۹ میں شہزادہ اکبر (اورنگ زیب کا چھوٹا بیٹا ) نے اپنے والد کے خلاف بغاوت کر دی اور اپنے والد کو نہایت ہی سخت لہذا میں خط لکھ کر کہا کہ ” شاہ شجاع، دارہ اور دیگر لوگوں کی موت کا ذمہ دار آپ (اورنگ زیب ) ہیں۔ اور آپ ہی اخلاقیات کی تعلیم دے رہے ہیں ” آخر کار شہزادہ اکبر کے ایران جاتے ہی اسکی بغاوت ختم ہو گئی- یہ اس بات کی حتمی شبوت ہے کہ اورنگ زیب نے شرعی قانون کا استعمال کر کے مسلم اشرافیہ/امراء کو مغلیہ تخت سے جوڑنے کی کوشش کی-

اسی سال (۱۶۷۹) میں اورنگ زیب نے ‘جزیہ’ کو لا گو کیا تھا- سوال یہ بھی اٹھتا ہے کہ اورنگ زیب نے ۱۶۵۸-۱۶۷۹ تک جزیہ کیوں نہیں لگایا؟ اسے اچانک سے لگانے کی کیا وجہ تھی؟
جزیہ ایک امتیازی ٹیکس تھا، لیکن مغلوں کی خدمت میں شامل راجپوت اور بر ہمن اس سے مستشنٰی تھا- جزیہ وصولی کے کئی قسمیں تھی- جیسے امیر ترین لوگوں سے بارہ روپیہ، اور اس سے کمتر آمدنی والے سے آٹھ روپیہ سا لانہ ادا کر نا پر تا تھا- جادو ناتھ کے مطابق اسکی تین قسمیں تھی- اول 3 1/4 ‘دوئم 6 2/3’ اور سوئم 3 1/3 روپے سالانہ ادا کر نا پڑتا تھا- جزیہ کا سب سے سخت پہلو یہ تھا کہ یہ کم آمدنی (غریب) سے ایک ماہ کا تنخواہ بطور ٹیکس ادا کر نا پر تا تھا-

۱۶۷۹ میں اورنگ زیب نے جزوی طور پر، راٹھو ڑ کی بغاوت (Rathor Rebellion) کی وجہ کر مندروں کو منہدم کر نے کا حکم دیا اور جس کے نتیجہ میں جودھپور میں متعدد مندروں کو منہدم کر دیا گیا تھا- اسکے علاوہ دوسرے مقامات پر بھی کچھ مشہور مندروں کو منہدم کیا گیا جیسے سومناتھ کا مندر(گجرات ) ، وشوناتھ مندر (وارانسی ،سابق بنارس) اور کیشو رائے مندر (متھرا ) شامل ہے۔ جنوری ۱۶۸۰ میں اورنگ زیب نے اودے ساگر جھیل کے کنارے موجود تین مندروں کو بھی منہدم کرا نے کا حکم صا در کیا- مشہور مورخ رام سرن شرما کے مطابق صرف اودے پور میں ۱۷۲ اور چتور میں کل ۶۳ مندروں کو اس درمیان منہدم کیا گیا-
اس حقیقت سے انکار نہیں کیا جا سکتا کہ، ‘جزیہ’ اور ‘مندروں کے منہدم’ کر نے حکم امتیازی پالیسی پر منحصر تھا- کیونکہ ساتھ ہی ساتھ وہ مندروں کو اسکی دیکھ بھال کے لیے وظیفہ(مالی امداد ) بھی دیا رہا تھا، جسکے دستاویز ات مختلف جگہوں پر موجود ہیں- اس کے ساتھ ہی ساتھ ایسے بھی دستاویزات موجود ہیں جس میں اورنگ زیب نے مندروں کی دیکھ بھال اور پجاریوں کے لیے گرا نٹ (وظیفہ/مالی امداد ) میں متعدد گاؤں دئیے-جس کی ایک اہم مشال ورنداون کے مندروں اور پجاریوں کے لئے دیا گیا گرانٹس ہے جس کی کا پی ابھی بھی چیتنیا گروہ کے مہنتوں کے پاس محفوظ ہے، جسے کئی دہائی قبل مورخ تارا پدا مکھرجی (Tarapada Mukherjee) اور عرفان حبیب(Irfan Habib) نے اپنی تحقیق کے ذریعے عوام الناس کو روشناس کرایا ہے۔ اسطرح کی ایک اور مشال بہرائچ میں موجود نو نی دھارا(Nonidhara Temple) بھی ہے، جسے اورنگ زیب نے وظیفہ (مالی امداد) دیا تھا-

ان تمام اقدامات کا حتمی نتیجہ کیا نکلا؟ یعنی کیا اس سے راجپوت، جو کہ ہندو تھے، اورنگ زیب کے تعلوقات میں کوئی فرق پڑا؟ نہیں! کیونکہ راجپوت، اورنگ زیب کے ذریعہ اٹھا ئے گئے اقدامات یعنی مندروں کو منہدم کرانا، کو ایک سیاسی عمل سمجھتے تھے- یہی وجہ ہے کہ راجپوت، سلطنت کے آخری ایام تک اورنگ زیب کے ساتھ رہے- ۱۶۹۸-۱۷۰۷ یعنی دس سالوں کے درمیان تین اہم جنرل، رام سنگھ ہڈا، دلپت بنڈیلا، اور جئے سنگھ سوائی، جنہوں نے اپنی افواج کے ساتھ مر ہٹوں سے جنگ لڑی- یعنی درج بالا تینوں امراء اپنی اپنی فوجوں کے ساتھ شہنشاہ کی خدمت ایمانداری کے ساتھ کرتے رہے اور انکو وطن جاگیر کا مراعات حاصل تھا-
ایک دفعہ کا واقع ہے کہ شہزادہ اعظم کی اہلیہ، شہزادی نادرہ بیگم ڈولی سے اسلام پور سے (جہاں اسوقت اورنگ زیب موجود تھے) گلگٹ جا رہی تھی کہ اچانک مرہٹوں کی افواج ، جس کی تعداد تقریباً ایک ہزار تھی، شہزادی کو اغوا کرنا چاہتے تھے تاکہ اورنگ زیب کو جھکا یا جا سکے- یہ خبر جیسے ہی رام سنگھ ہڈا کو لگی وہ سات سو پچاس سپاہیوں کے ساتھ شہزادی کی حفاظت کے لئے پہنچ گئے- شہزادی کیونکہ پردے کا احتمام کر تی تھی لہذا پردے کا خیال رکھتے ہوئے شہزادی کی ڈولی سے کچھ فاصلہ بنا کر، ہڈا کا دستہ پیدل ڈولی کے پیچھے پیچھے شہزادی کی حفاظت کے لیے چلتا رہا- اسی درمیان نادرہ بیگم نے رام سنگھ کو بلا یا اور کہی ” چغتا ئیوں کی عزت، راجپوتوں کی ہی طرح ہے”- رام سنگھ فارسی سمجھ تو سمجھتا تھا پر فارسی بول نہیں سکتا تھا لہذا اسنے ٹوٹی پھوٹی فارسی میں شہزادی کو جواب دیا ” ملیچھوں (نا پاک مر ہٹہ) کو ڈولی کی طرف دیکھنے کی بھی ہمت نہیں ہوگی، تو قریب آنے کا سوال ہی نہیں ہوتا “-
سترہویں صدی میں مر ہٹوں کو کبھی بھی اس قسم کی سخت مزا حمت کا سامنا نہیں کر نا پڑا جو رام سنگھ اور اسکے ہڈا افواج نے اسے دی- نادرہ بیگم کی حفاظت میں رام سنگھ نے اپنے بیٹوں کے ساتھ ہی ساتھ تقریباً تین سو راجپوت سپاہیوں کی موت ہو ئی، مرہٹوں کے ساتھ مڈبھیڑ میں- اور آخر کار رام سنگھ کو کا میابی ملی اور اس نے جیسا شہزادی سے کہا تھا کہ ” نادرہ بیگم کی ڈولی کی طرف کوئی نظر تک نہیں ڈال سکتا ” اپنے قول کو شہزادی کی حفاظت کر کے پورا کیا- اسطرح راجپوت اور مغلوں کے درمیان آپسی اعتماد اور محبت کا شبوت ملتا ہے کہ کیسے اور کس حد تک بحران کے وقت راجپوت بادشاہ تو دور ایک شہزادی کی حفاظت کے لئے جا سکتا ہے-

درج بالا واقع ۱۶۹۹ میں رونما ہوا تھا اور اس واقعہ کے مطالعہ سے پتہ چلتا ہے کہ راٹھور کی بغاوت اور اورنگ زیب کے امتیازی پالیسیوں کے با وجود اورنگ زیب نے راجپوتوں کا اعتماد نہیں کھو یا تھا-

ازدواجی تعلقات اور جذباتی وابستگیوں کے علاوہ مغلوں اور راجپوتوں کے تعلوقات فطری طور پر یکساں تھے-اور مغلیہ سلطنت کی تو سیع کے ساتھ ہی ساتھ راجپوت ریا ستیں بھی ترقی اور خوشحال ہو تی رہی- اور اٹھا رویں صدی میں جب مغلیہ سلطنت کا زوال شروع ہوا، اسکے ساتھ ہی مر ہٹوں نے راجپوتوں کے عظیم الشان محلوں کو لوٹ لیا- راجپوتوں اور مغلوں کی تعلوقات کا عمیق مطالعہ سے پتہ چلتا ہے کہ سولہویں، سترہویں، اور اٹھارویں صدی میں مغل اور راجپوت ایک ساتھ مل جل کر ترقی کرتے رہے اور مغلوں کے زوال کے ساتھ ہی ساتھ راجپوتوں کا بھی زوال ہو گیا-

مضمون نگار: سید علی ندیم رضوی، پروفیسر، شعبہ تاریخ، علی گڑھ مسلم یو نیورسٹی، علی گڑھ

مترجم: عنایت اللہ خان، عا لیہ یو نیورسٹی، کولکاتہ

Gandhi in a New Avatar: Advisor to Savarkar on Mercy petitions

Mridula Mukherjee, Aditya Mukherjee & Sucheta Mahajan

The Authors

The Indian Express, 13 October 2021, tells us that Shri Rajnath Singh, the Indian Defence Minister, has claimed that “A lot of falsehood was spread against Savarkar. It was repeatedly said that he filed multiple mercy petitions before the British government. The truth is he did not file these petitions for his release. Generally a prisoner has right to file a mercy petition. Mahatma Gandhi had asked that you file a mercy petition. It was on Gandhi’s suggestion that he filed a mercy petition. And Mahatma Gandhi had appealed that Savarkar ji should be released. He had said the way we are running movement for freedom peacefully, so would Savarkar.”. He also said that “You can have differences of opinion, but to see him condescendingly is not right. The act of demeaning his national contribution will not be tolerated”. (Note the threat. Setting up Godse temples and hero worshipping him can be tolerated but no criticism of Savarkar!)

What are the facts?

Rajnath Singh’s statement is presumably based on documents pertaining to the year 1920: a letter from ND Savarkar, brother of VD Savarkar and Ganesh Savarkar, to Gandhiji, Gandhiji’s reply, and an article in Young India by Gandhiji.

The facts are somewhat at variance with the claim made by Rajnath Singh.  The first mercy petition was filed nine years earlier by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar in 1911 itself, within six months of his conviction, and numerous other petitions followed in subsequent years, without any evidence or claim of it being at Gandhiji’s suggestion! To quote from one such petition, submitted personally to the Home Member, Sir Reginald Craddock, when he visited the Andamans jail in 1913, for his release, offering to be loyal to the British Government:

“If the Government in their manifold beneficence and mercy release me, I for one cannot but be the strongest advocate of constitutional progress and loyalty to the English government which is the foremost condition of that progress. I am ready to serve the Government in any capacity they like, for as my conversion is conscientious so I hope my future conduct would be. The Mighty alone can afford to be merciful and therefore where else can the prodigal son return but to the parental doors of the Government?”

Further, as testified by GS Khoparde, a Savarkar supporter’s question in the Imperial Legislative Council on March 22, 1920, “Mr Savarkar and his brother had once in 1915 and at another time in 1918 submitted petitions to Government stating that they would, during the continuance of war, serve the Empire by enlisting in the Army, if released, and would, after the passing of the Reforms Bill, try to make the Act a success and would stand by law and order”. In his reply, the Home Member, Sir William Vincent, confirmed that : “Two petitions were received from Vinayak Damodar Savarkar – one in 1914 and another in 1917, through the Superintendent, Port Blair. In the former he offered his services to Government during the war in any capacity and prayed that a general amnesty be granted to all political prisoners. The second petition was confined to the latter proposal”.

Thus, it is very clear that Savarkar had submitted numerous petitions between 1911 and 1920, without any advice or prompting from Gandhi,. offering loyalty to the British government, and expressing his willingness to serve them in any capacity.  Therefore the Defence Minister’s statement that Savarkar did not file mercy petitions but did so only on the advice of the Mahatma is not borne out by the actual historical record.

So where does Gandhiji come into the story? Only in 1920, when N D Savarkar, the younger brother of the two Savarkar brothers who were in jail, wrote to Gandhiji seeking his advice, when he found that the list of prisoners being released under the Royal Proclamation of Clemency by the British did not include the names of the brothers. Gandhiji replied saying it was difficult to give advice but suggested that he might draft a brief petition. In addition, he wrote an article in Young India on 26 May 1920, titled Savarkar Brothers, where he refers to the Royal Proclamation of Clemency and notes that while many other political prisoners had been released under this but the Savarkar brothers were not.

He says “Both the brothers have declared their political opinions and both have stated that they do not entertain any revolutionary ideas and that if they were set free they would like to work under the Reform Act…” (Government of India Act of 1919) “They both state unequivocally that they do not desire independence from the British connection. On the contrary they feel that India’s destiny can be best worked out in association with the British.”

It is to be noted that nowhere in Gandhiji’s article is there an appeal for Savarkar’s release, as stated by the Defence minister. “Mahatma Gandhi had appealed that Savarkar ji should be released.” Gandhiji questions the government decision not to release them as they appear to pose no danger to “public safety” or “danger to the state”, but does not appeal to the British. Nor does Gandhiji anywhere say in his article, as claimed by the Defence minister, that “the way we are running movement for freedom peacefully, so would Savarkar.” On the contrary, Gandhiji is emphasizing that the Savarkar brothers do not want independence, and want to work under the Reform Act.

There is a strange irony in this entire episode. That Mahatma Gandhi is being roped in to establish Savarkar’s nationalist credentials, that too on such flimsy grounds! The attempt is to create a picture in the public mind that Gandhiji and Savarkar had a close relationship, to the extent that the latter took Gandhiji’s advice on such crucial issues as mercy petitions and that Gandhiji appealed for his release. It is a clear attempt to try and normalise Savarkar’s begging for mercy when numerous other nationalists refused to do so and  Gandhiji even demanded the severest punishment for himself.

What are the facts, which we are expected to forget?

In January 1948, when Gandhi was assassinated, Savarkar was arrested as he was suspected of being the mastermind behind the conspiracy. Sardar Patel, who was overseeing the whole case as the Home Minister, being a fine criminal lawyer, was personally convinced of Savarkar’s guilt, otherwise he would not have agreed to put him up for trial. He told the Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, in unambiguous terms, ‘It was a fanatical wing of the Hindu Mahasabha directly under Savarkar that [hatched] the conspiracy and saw it through’. (Durga Das, Sardar Patel Correspondence, 1945–50, Vol. VI, p. 56.)

In response to the Hindu Mahasabha’s disclaimer, Patel wrote to Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, the Hindu Mahasabha leader, on 6 May 1948:

“…we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that an appreciable number of the members of the Mahasabha gloated over the tragedy and distributed sweets…. Further, militant communalism, which was preached until only a few months ago by many spokesmen of the Mahasabha, including men like Mahant Digbijoy Nath, Prof. Ram Singh and Deshpande, could not but be regarded as a danger to public security. The same would apply to the RSS, with the additional danger inherent in an organization run in secret on military or semi-military lines.” (Sardar Patel Correspondence, Vol. VI, p. 66.)

Patel further pointed out to Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, ‘The activities of the RSS constituted a clear threat to the existence of Government and the state’. (18 July 1948, Sardar Patel Correspondence, Vol. 6, p. 323.)

The Chief Minister of Bombay, B.G. Kher, explained the political situation in Maharashtra to Patel, ‘The atmosphere of hatred against the Congress and Mahatma sought to be created by the Hindu Mahasabha culminated in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi at the hands of a few Maharashtrians’. { B.G. Kher to Patel, 26 May 1948, ibid., Vol. VI, pp. 77–78.)

Savarkar was eventually not convicted in the Gandhi Murder Trial due to a technical point of criminal law: for lack of independent evidence to corroborate the testimony of the approver.

However, the Commission of Inquiry set up in 1965 under Justice Jiwan Lal Kapoor, a former judge of the Supreme Court of India, got access to a lot of evidence which was not available to the trial judge. Two of Savarkar’s close associates, A.P. Kasar and G.V. Damle, who had not testified at the trial, spoke up before the Kapur Commision, now that Savarkar was dead, and corroborated the approver’s statements. It is possible that If they had testified at the trial, Savarkar would have been proven guilty. In fact, the Kapur Commission came to a conclusion very similar to that of Sardar Patel: ‘All these facts taken together were destructive of any theory other than the conspiracy to murder by Savarkar and his group’.( Report of Commission of Inquiry into Conspiracy to Murder Mahatma Gandhi, 1970, p.303, para 25.106.)

Immediately after Gandhiji’s assassination, the Government of India, with Sardar Patel as Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister, banned the RSS and put some 25,000 of its members in jail.  The Hindu Mahasabha chose to dissolve itself when confronted with a ban. Tainted by its link with Gandhiji’s murder, the Hindu Mahasabha beat a tactical retreat and Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, its main leader, founded the Bharatiya Jan Sangh in 1951. This was to be the main political vehicle of Hindu communal articulation from then onwards, its frontline political party, till it merged into the Janata Party after the Emergency and then was replaced by the BJP.

It is indeed ironic that the political forces who lay claim to being the most ardent nationalists today played no role at all when the actual struggle for India’s freedom was being fought. Savarkar, after his release from prison in 1924, never took part in any anti-British politics. In fact, he was the originator of the theory of Hindutva, which defined authentic Indians as those whose fatherland and holy lands, pitribhumi and punyabhumi , were in India, thereby excluding Muslims and Christians, whose holy lands were outside India, from the fold. The Hindu Mahasabha also became increasingly loyalist in the 1930s and 1940s. Though the loyalist tendency was there earlier, initially some of its leaders participated in Congress-led movements. But from 1937 onwards, when Savarkar became the President and undisputed leader, they joined the Muslim League in competing for the crumbs thrown from the Imperial table.  The outbreak of the Second World War brought the differences with the nationalist forces out into the open. While the Congress provincial ministries resigned in protest against the British Government’s decision to make India a party to the War without her consent, Hindu Mahasabha leaders offered cooperation to the British, and advocated that Indians participate in the war-effort and join the Army. Savarkar, as President of the Mahasabha, appealed to Hindus ‘to participate in all war-efforts of the British Government’ and not to listen to “some fools” who “condemn” this policy ‘as cooperation with Imperialism’.( Savarkar, Hindu Rashtra Darshan, pp. 203ff.)

In private, Savarkar told the Viceroy in October 1939 that the Hindus and the British should be friends and made an offer that the Hindu Mahasabha would replace the Congress if the Congress ministries resigned from office.( Linlithgow, Viceroy, to Zetland, Secretary of State, 7 October 1939,  Zetland Papers, Volume 18, Reel No. 6.) 

In accordance with this pro-British policy, when the Quit India movement was going on in 1942, and the entire nationalist Congress leadership including Gandhiji was in jail, Shyama Prasad Mookerjee of the Hindu Mahasabha was a minister in the Fazlul Haq Ministry in Bengal. The Hindu Mahasabha also formed coalition governments with the Muslim League in Sind and the NWFP. It is another matter that all this loyalism could not get them electoral success and they suffered a rout in the 1946 elections!

The RSS too, as an organisation did not participate in any of the major battles for freedom from colonial rule. The RSS was founded in 1925, and apart from the Simon Commission Boycott in 1928, at least two major movements, the Civil Disobedience Movement of 1930–34 and the Quit India Movement of 1942 were launched by the Congress after that date. In none of these did the RSS play any part. Hedgewar, the founder of the RSS did go to jail in his individual capacity in 1930, but he kept the organisation and its members away from the Civil Disobedience movement. The government was very clear that it had nothing to fear from the RSS. A Home Department note on the RSS reported that, ‘At meetings of the Sangh during the Congress disturbances (1942), speakers urged the members to keep aloof from the Congress movement and these instructions were generally observed’.

It is of course legitimate to ask why there was a silence on Savarkar in the RSS and Jan Sangh-BJP camp for over four or five decades after Gandhiji’s murder. Was it because it was politically suicidal to mention Savarkar as he was associated in the public mind with Gandhiji’s  murder, and now that much time had lapsed, it could be assumed that public memory was short and Savarkar could now be resurrected? Also, with the new public emphasis on ‘Hindutva’ as part of the new aggressive phase, it was difficult to ignore the original creator of the concept. Further, for a party claiming to be ‘nationalist,’ it is a little embarrassing not to have any freedom fighters to show. Therefore, in a desperate effort to discover nationalist icons, Savarkar was sought to be cast in that mould.

A nationalist veil is drawn over Savarkar’s communalism by remembering him as Krantiveer, the Andamans revolutionary. That Savarkar shamed the revolutionaries by repeatedly asking for pardon in the Andamans and that he never took part in any nationalist activity after his release as he had promised to the British government, was sought to be forgotten. And in 2003, when the BJP-led NDA government was in power, despite considerable opposition, Savarkar’s portrait was installed in the parliament. One would imagine that even if there is a whiff of suspicion about Savarkar this should not have happened. And now the latest: an effort to legitimize Savarkar by normalizing his embarassing mercy petitions as being sanctioned by the Mahatma! The aim is also to project a close and friendly relationship between the two, and thus hide the fact that they had nothing in common. Savarkar as the ideologue of Hindutva and leader of the Hindu Mahasabha was a consistent and vehement critic of Gandhiji, especially of his non-violence and inclusive attitude towards the Muslims. There could not be a sharper contrast between their formulations of who India belongs to. Savarkar clearly says that “India must be a Hindu land, reserved for the Hindus”. He unambiguously asserts that Hindus should be “masters in our own house, Hindusthan, the land of the Hindus”. (Hindu Rashtra Darshan, pp 92, 63). Gandhiji, on the other hand, in his  famous speech in Bombay in August 1942 where he gave the call for ‘Quit India’, declared unequivocally: “Those Hindus who, like Dr. Moonje and Shri Savarkar, believe in the doctrine of the sword may seek to keep the Mussalmans under Hindu domination. I do not represent that section. I represent the Congress. The Congress does not believe in the domination of any group or any community. It believes in democracy which includes in its orbit Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Parsis, Jews—every one of the communities inhabiting this vast country….Millions of Mussalmans in this country come from Hindu stock. How can their homeland be any other than India?”

One cannot help thinking what a contrast there is between Savarkar and his men, and revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh who prided themselves on never asking for clemency, choosing to suffer all punishment, including death. In fact from the very early days Indian nationalists had evolved the practice of bravely accepting responsibility for committing anti-British acts, face trials, using the trials for further propagation of nationalist goals and then willingly accept imprisonment, exile or even death as punishment.

It is pertinent to note that Savarkar’s habit of petitioning the government for release from internment and making offers of good behaviour did not end with his release from British jails in 1924. Within three weeks of his arrest in connection with Gandhiji’s murder, on 22 February 1948, he made a representation to the Police Commissioner from Arthur Road Prison expressing his ‘willingness to give an undertaking to the Government that … [he would] refrain from taking part in any communal or political public activity for any period the Government may require in case I am released on that condition’. Even the most brilliant advocate would find it difficult to prove that this too was on Gandhiji’s advice, unless of course so strong was the bond between the two that the atheist Savarkar could claim communion with Gandhiji’s spirit!

Sources of Aurangzeb’s Reign

Illustrations in Alamgirnama

Aurangzeb stopped the tradition of commissioning the official history writing at the end of the 10th RY of his reign. The reason appears to be that perhaps he wanted to suppress his political failures. Another reason which has been forwarded is the financial strain. Others hold his orthodoxy as the main reason for the order to stop writing the official history.

In spite of this, if the entire source material available for Aurangzeb’s reign in different archives of India and abroad is put together, collectively the reign of Aurangzeb is found to be rich in historical records as compared to all Mughal Emperors preceding him put together. From this point of view his reign is important both quantitatively and qualitatively.

The only official history written during this reign is the ‘Alamgirnama of Muhammad Kazim Shirazi. It is the history of the first 10 regnal years: i.e. from the period Aurangzeb started from the Deccan to contest the throne up to 1688. It is in 2 volumes. As with all official histories, Alamgirnama is very rich in details, its chronology is reliable. It provides all appointments and promotions of the mansabdars. Kazim Shirazi takes care to note the original rank as well as the promotion. All this is natural as being an official historian, the state archives were at his disposal. All the official records were available to him. He himself was associated with the court and experienced most of the events he describes. He records almost all the important events of the period which he covers

However it suppresses many facts as well. For example, it doesn’t mention that Surat was sacked by Shivaji in 1664. Thus there is a suppression of events not complementary to the ruler. Similarly there is no direct reference to the scarcity of food grains. Kazim suppresses it. He gives an interesting version of the causes of the War of Succession, placing the entire blame on Shahjahan and Dara Shukoh. He gives all the details of the moves of Dara, Shuja, Murad and Aurangzeb. In spite of all this he provides very useful and independent information which throws a flood of light on the causes of the WoS : Aurangzeb invoked the shariat law to justify the execution of Dara and not to take up arms against his father. Thus the bogey of Shari’ at was raised only when he had ascended the throne. Kazim Shirazi is not consistently objective: he gives the official version of almost all the controversial events and developments. The treatment meted out by Aurangzeb to Dara, Murad and other supporters of Dara has been justified in Alamgirnama on religious grounds; although we know from other sources that this slogan of religion was raised by Aurangzeb to justify his acts. Such subjectivity of the author of this work can be multiplied. However this shortcoming in no way undermines the importance of this source.

For the history of the first ten years, the Alamgirnama is reliable except at the places where he deliberately suppresses information. There can be no doubt about the value of Alamgirnama, even later historian tend to follow what Kazim Shirazi had written for the first 10 years. As much details as are contained in the Alamgirnama, are unfortunately not found in any of the other histories which were written in the next 40 years of Aurangzeb’s reign.

 The information contained in it regarding the WoS is corroborated by Aqil Khan Razi in Waqi’at –i ‘Alamgiri. It is an account of the WoS : Aqil Khan was not only a contemporary but a participant in the struggle on behalf of Aurangzeb. Thus his account is extremely rich in details and accurate in dates. It is very objective in the sense that it omitted the preamble of the ahadnama entered into between Aurangzeb and Murad Bakhsh in which it was stated that they were going to fight against the rais-i mulahida (chief of the heretics) i.e. Dara Shukoh. Aqil Khan Razi was a partisan of Aurangzeb and has effectively put forward the view of Aurangzeb regarding the WoS, yet even he avoids that it had religious overtones. He gives the impression that it was fought on political and personal considerations: Religion was not involved.

Another source for the period is the Nuskha-i Dilkusha of Bhimsen. He was born at Burhanpur in 1648-49 and served under Rao Dalpat Bundela at a time when Rao Dalpat was deputed to the Deccan. He took part in many wars in the Deccan during Aurangzeb’s reign. For a time he had been the commander of the fort of Naldurg. After the death of Prince Kambakhsh s/o Aurangzeb, in 1709, he left imperial service and settled down at Burhanpur where he compiled his work.

His work is an account of of Aurangzeb’s reign from his march from the Deccan in 1658 to contest the throne up to the defeat of prince Kambakhsh in 1709. His account is based on personal observations and recollections and is mainly a description of the military transactions in the Deccan. Bhimsen had close contacts with a number of officers, generals and nobles. He himself had taken an active part from 1670 onwards. He had also widely travelled in the empire and was an actual witness to the state of affairs. There can be no doubt about some of the information he provides, like the appointments, promotions, postings and transfers of many of the favourite officers and mansabdars. He has recorded the events with dates and accuracy. Nushkha-i Dilkusha is thus a work in the nature of a gazetteer of the reign of Aurangzeb. All this information is valuable for us as after Alamgirnama details are not found in any source of Aurangzeb’s reign. 

Another important source for the period is the Ma’asir-i Alamgiri of Saqi Musta’id Khan. It is also a gazetteer for the reign of Aurangzeb providing us the list of mansabdars, their promotions, appointments and transfers. It gives us inkling into the working of the administrative system. The author’s candid remarks on the character and working of the officers and nobles are of great value. Saqi Musta’id Khan was an objective writer. His observations give us an insight into the actual working of the official administrative machinery under Aurangzeb. At the end of his work he also appended a brief account of Aurangzeb’s reign and an account of his sons and daughters. As there is no comprehensive and complete account of Aurangzeb’s reign, Ma’asir-i Alamgiri is a very important source. It was compiled soon after the death of Aurangzeb, and though was not technically a contemporary account; it may be treated as a contemporary account: the author was a contemporary of Aurangzeb who had served as an officer under him; he had been close to the person of the emperor. Further this work is based on contemporary state archives and documents.

Saqi Musta’id Khan does not appear to be a great scholar of high calibre or a man who had any understanding of history as a science, his approach. In compiling his work, his approach appears to be that of an ordinary court official who recorded the dry and bare facts in strict chronological order with days and dates. There is no analysis of facts. He wrote as a true servant of His Majesty, the Emperor. He was an admirer of his master and extremely loyal to him. He presents Aurangzeb in his account as a devout Muslim: a king who set himself upon to establish the rule of Sharia and humiliate the infidels (viz. the Rajputs and the Marathas) and their supporters (Rathors, Sisodias, Bijapuris, Qutbshahis). Unlike Bhimsen and Khafi Khan, he found no fault in Aurangzeb’s policies and administration. Nor does he reflect or explain neither events nor their effects on the government or the people or the country. There is very little information in Ma’asir-i Alamgiri about the society and economic condition of the people of the period as may be found in the Nuskha-i Dilkusha of Bhimsen of Muntakhab ul Lubab of Khafi Khan.

In spite these short comings Ma’asir-i Alamgiri is an invaluable source of History for Aurangzeb’s period because we do not have any other such account for the last 40 years of his reign by a contemporary or semi-contemporary source. It is due to this that subsequent writers had depended upon it.

Muntakhab ul Lubab is written by Muhammad Hashim whose title was Khafi Khan. It is a very important source of Aurangzeb’s period and covers aspects not found in other works easily. It can be compared to Barani and Abul Fazl.

He was an eye witness to many events which he recorded and he claims that he based his narration on the privately maintained account of the events of Aurangzeb’s reign, as well as on personal observations and verbal account of men who had been witness to these events.

Muntakhabul Lubab is a complete, connected and a very detailed account of Aurangzeb’s period. Unlike Ma’asir-i Alamgiri or Nuskha-i Dilkusha, which mention just the grant of mansabs, promotions, appointments, transfers or despatch of nobles on expeditions and their military operation, Khafi Khan gives us a total and complete picture of the entire reign, providing us a sequence of events, interaction of political and economic developments, thereby giving us a correct and comprehensive understanding of this crucial period of Indian history. He gives very valuable details in much greater measure than Ma’asir or Dilkusha about the imperial policy towards the Marathas and the Deccani rulers. About the military operations there, actual condition of the two fighting parties (the Deccan & Imperialists) and their camps during prolonged campaigns of Aurangzeb is also discussed by him. He is perhaps the only historian who describes the influx of the Deccani nobles and its effects on the Mughal nobility, the mansabdari and jagirdari system which in time seriously affected the position and strength of the Mughal rule in India.

Muntakhab ul Lubab is an extremely valuable account for the history of Aurangzeb and in view of its importance we have separately dealt with it in another blog.

Another important source for the study of Aurangzeb’s period are the letters written by Aurangzeb, entitled Kalimat-i Taiyebat and Raqaim al Karaim. The letters contained in these collections are the letters written by Aurangzeb as emperor. These letters reveal the crisis with which the Mughal Empire was faced towards the close of Aurangzeb’s reign. But at the same time they depict the determination of the emperor to face the crisis. The letters also throw light on the relation of Aurangzeb with his sons and nobles.

The Factory Records are the reports sent by the factors to the Home government. They are a mine of raw material for the study of the economic condition of the Empire, especially the trade and commerce. The corrupt practises adopted by the Mughal officials, the functioning of the mint-houses, the rate of interest and the role of banias, as well as the hundis (the indigenous bills of exchange). For the study of the 17th Century trade and commerce and the commercial activity within the Mughal Empire, these Factory records are extremely useful and full of information.

Manucci was an Italian traveller and he has written the history and his experiences in the Mughal Empire. His work is entitled as Storia do Mogor which has been translated by William Irvine in four volumes. Sir Jadunath Sarkar describes Manucci as ‘gossipy Manucci’ but a careful study of the four volumes reveals that the observation of Sarkar cannot be sustained. Manucci has given the salary of different mansabdars which tallies with the dastur-ul amals. He has given the list of titles which were given to Hindu and Muslim nobles. He also mentions the titles given to the persons belonging to different professions, eg. Scribes, khushnavis, musicians, dancing girls, singers, elephants, elepant-drivers and so on.

He also mentions certain facts which provide important clue for an understanding of the functioning of the empire. His account is useful for the understanding the administrative apparatus and the functioning of the empire. Of course he has given certain scandals regarding the Imperial household, but they may be easily discarded and whatever is left is useful for the study of the second half of the 17th Century, especially for the reign of Aurangzeb. It is unfair to dispose his account as mere gossip.

Another important European traveller to India, who left behind an account of Aurangzeb’s reign, as well as the last years of Shahjahan’s reign is Francois Bernier. He came at the close of Shahjahan’s reign in 1656 and joined th service of Dara Shukoh. He was one of members of the French landed gentry. His account is basically in the form of letters to his overlords back home. One of the most detailed account is provided in his letter addressed to Lord Colbert. He elaborates on his views about the Mughal Empire, the causes of its decline, and the agrarian crisis which he witnessed. According to him this ‘decline’ was as result of the transfer system inherent in the mansabdari and jagirdari system. He looked at everything through tinted European glasses. He dedicates his account to the French emperor. He calls the war of succession as ‘The Tragedy’

• Syed Ali Nadeem Rezavi

Some Controversial and Discriminatory Measures of Aurangzeb: Music “Ban”, imposition of Jizya and Attitude towards Temples

There are three very controversial and disputed measures initiated by Aurangzeb during his five decade rule: the Imposition of Jizya, a discriminatory tax on Hindus, the demolition of temples and the ban of music which was considered “un-Islamic”.

Let us here analyse these three measures of Aurangzeb.

All these three measures were discriminatory and aimed to humiliate the non-Muslims.


It has been points out that it was 22 years after his ascent to the throne that Aurangzeb decided to impose the jizya on the Hindus, and this may have actually been a response to the outbreak of rebellions of the Marathas, Sikhs, Jats and others. Certain classes of Hindus, including government officials, were exempted from the jizya, while, at the same time, Aurangzeb made arrangements for the zakat to be collected from Muslims. ML Bhatia in his book writes that “It is also stated that long before jizya was imposed, Aurangzeb had ordered the abolition of a number of unauthorized taxes which placed heavy burden on the Hindus” (p. 52). He admits that one of the aims of imposing the jizya, as the court ulema saw it, was to degrade the Hindus, and this naturally caused considerable ill-will and resentment among them. That the financial aspect of the jizya was not seen by the ulema as equally important as its symbolism is reflected in the fact that the total collection from the jizya was only slightly more than the money spent on collect- ing it, with much of the money collected going into the pockets of corrupt officials. And as for the resumption of tax-free land grants to Hindu priests and yogis, this was only a temporary measure in the wake of Hindu-led rebellions and that when these subsided the edict was allowed, for all practical purposes, to lapse.

Jizya was a discriminatory tax, alright. And of course it was humiliative, but then the Rajputs were exempted, the Brahmins were exempted and all those who were in the Mughal service were exempted! In terms of collection, the jizya was graded: the richest man was to pay Rs.12/= per annum, while the less prosperous was supposed to pay Rs.8/= per annum. According to Jadunath Sarkar, it was ` 3 ¼ , 6 2/3 and 3 1/3 per annum for the three classes.

The most pinching aspect of the Jizya was that it was a tax on the poor, who had to pay an average of one month’s salary as tax.

Temple Destruction:

As early as 1669 orders were issued (says JN Sarkar) to demolish all the schools and temples of the ‘infidels’. Thus for example, the Maasir-i Alamgiri notes, the Temple of Malarna in Jaipur was demolished.

When the Rathor Rebellion was on the verge of breaking out and Aurangzeb had decided to award the tika to Inder Singh, the widow of late Jaswant Singh vehemently protested and through a letter written to Aurangzeb, reproduced by the Waqai Ajmer in Bikaner Archives, offered to break every temple in the Jodhpur region if Aurangzeb agreed to award tika to her candidate and not to Indar Singh. Aurangzeb refused. However this letter does reveal that it was widely believed that the emperor would be please by vandalising the temples. Aurangzeb’s refusal however reveals that he resorted to temple destruction only in certain situations.

It was, however in 1679 itself, only after the Rathores had revolted, that the orders for the destruction of temples were given. Probably these orders were partly in retaliation of the Rathore rebellion, for a number of temples were demolished in Jodhpur. Some of the most famous shrines demolished were the Somnath (Gujarat), the Vashvanath (Varanasi) and the Keshava Rai (Mathura). In January 1680 Aurangzeb ordered the demolition of three temples standing on the edge of Udai Sagar. If we believe SR Sharma, at Udaipur 172 temples were broken. In Chitor the number stood at 63.

Contrarily we also have well-documented evidences of Aurangzeb’s patronage of various Hindu religious institutions, namely temples, maths, grants to Brahmins and pujaris:

Land grants were renewed to the temples at Mathura, Banaras, Gaya, Gauhati, and others, while the emperor is known to have donated ghee for the navadeep in a few temples, including the Mahabateshwar temple at Agra;

Gifts were offered to the Sikh gurudwara at Dehradun;

Madad-i ma’ash grants, as listed in the Rajasthan documents, were continued to a math of Nathpanthi yogis in parganaDidwana, sarkar Nagor;

Grants were also made to Ganesh Bharti faqir and his successors in pargana Siwana with the instructions that the faqir should not be disturbed so he could ‘pray for this sultanat’.

The Vrindavan document of 1704 referred to a parwana which sanctioned the rights of Chaitanya gosains who had founded Vrindavan and established pilgrimages in Braj Bhumi, and recognised the right of Brajanand Gosain to receive a fee from the followers of the sect on account of kharj sadir o warid, that is, expenses on guests and travellers from each village. In effect, it was a government levy for the benefit of Brajanand Gosain and his Vaishnavite followers.

We have a farman of Aurangzeb which he issued to Balaji temple of Chitrakut. It begins with the symbolic Allah-o-Akbar (Allah is great) incantation. Below the invocation is the royal seal of Aurangzeb, whose orders saw the destruction of several Hindu shrines. And then comes the farmaan (regal notice), extending royal patronage to the Balaji temple and its erstwhile priest. Mahant Balak Das, Penned on the 19th day of Ramzaan in the 35th year of Aurangzeb’s tenure (June 16, 1691), the farmaan is now a part of Chitrakoot’s folklore.

From the above description, Aurangzeb’s patronage to temples appears without doubt. And yet some temples were attacked, while others were spared. This aberration in the emperor’s attitude can be explained by only one rationale: it was not iconoclasm, but reprisal for rebellion or political misconduct or disloyalty to the emperor.

This exposition can be applied to understand the attack on the Vishwanath temple at Kashi, the Keshav Dev temple at Mathura, and several prominent temples in Rajasthan. In 1669, during a zamindar revolt in Banaras, it was suspected that some of them had assisted Shivaji in his escape from imperial detention. It was also believed that Shivaji’s escape was initially facilitated by Jai Singh, the great-grandson of Raja Man Singh, who had built the Vishwanath temple. It was against this background that Aurangzeb ordered the destruction of that temple in September 1669.

Around the same time, in a Jat rebellion that had erupted in the neighbouring regions of Mathura, a patron of the local congregational mosque was killed, leading to Aurangzeb’s order in 1670 to attack the Keshav Dev temple at Mathura. Temples in Marwar and Mewar were also attacked following the death of Maharaja Jaswant Singh to reprimand and crush the Rathor rebellion and the development of a Sisodia– Rathor alliance. These included temples in Khandela patronised by rebel chieftains; temples in Jodhpur maintained by a former supporter of Dara Shukoh; and the royal temples in Udaipur and Chittor patronised by Rana Raj Singh after the Rana entered into an alliance with the Rathors that signalled the withdrawal of loyalty to the Mughal State. It may be observed that the Rathor rebellion was not a reaction or a protest against the re-imposition of jizya. Instead, this re-imposition, as Abu’l Fazl Ma’muri observed in the context of the suppression of the Satnami revolt and prior to the emperor’s expedition to Ajmer, was meant for ‘the affliction of the rebellious unbelievers’.

Farman of Aurangzeb and Balaji Temple of Chitrakoot

Jizya and temple destruction were both discriminatory policies. But then we have evidence of grants to the temples as well. A number of documents published in the Journal of the Bombay Historical Society as well as the Pakistan Historical Society mention a number of such grants to hindu temples by Aurangzeb. These documents testify to a number of villages being sanctioned for the upkeep of the temples.[eg. The Vrindavan temples and the ‘Nonidhara Temple at Bahraich].

A Contradictory Policy?

So was there a contradiction in the personality of Aurangzeb? It was not. There was a contradiction in the situation which reflected in the policies of Aurangzeb. Nothing can stay static and yet survive. Aurangzeb knew that change was called for. However, he committed the mistake that he forgot that the religious revival was not the solution for the Mughal problems.

Let us take contemporary evidence. Bhimsen is the author of Nuskha-i Dilkusha. His is an eye-witness account of the military expedition in the Deccan. He was the peshkar of Dalpat Rao Bundela, an outstanding officer of Aurangzeb and is extremely critical of Aurangzeb’s Deccan policy. According to him Aurangzeb followed a policy of qila’ giri while the Marathas controlled the lands. Because of this policy, the area from where formerly gold coins were realized, now not even copper was forthcoming. Thus Bhimsen was quite critical of Aurangzeb, but then what is important to mark is that never does he criticize Aurangzeb on religious ground. He mentions the imposition of jizya but without any rancour.

No Hindu writer of Aurangzeb’s period, whether it is Bhimsen, or Isardas Nagar, the author of Futuhat-i Alamgiri or Sujan Rai Bhandari are critical of Aurangzeb on the grounds of the re-imposition of jizya or the destruction of the temples. These contemporary historians are infact silent on the religious policy of Aurangzeb and from their rading it appears that neither the line taken by Hindu communal historians, headed by Sir Jadunath Sarkar, and followed by S.R.Sarma, and Ashirbadilal Srivastava, nor the line taken by Muslim communal historians headed by Shibli and followed by I.H.Qureshi and others satisfactorily explains the religious policy of Aurangzeb and the stresses and strains to which the Indian Society was subjected to during the second half of the 17th Century.

In fact both the set of arguments are not supported by the contemporary accounts of Bhimsen or the others. Prof. M. Athar Ali deals with this problem in his book as well as in one of his papers.

According to his general assessment, in order to assess the results of Aurangzeb’s religious policy, one should imagine, not the India of the 19th Century with a new national as well as religious consciousness, motivating the various sections of the people, but of a period when vital loyalties to one’s caste or master superseded to a considerable degree other claims upon one’s conscience. In so far as Aurangzeb was careful to respect some privileges, e.g., exemption of the Rajputs from jizya or to exempt temples commanding great devotion (e.g., Puri or Thanjavur Temples) or temples built by loyal officials, he on his own part, recognized that there was a limit beyond which it was impolitic to go.

But above all, according to Athar Ali, one should remember that Aurangzeb’s policy could not be implemented as rigorously as it could be prescribed on paper. This was particularly true in relation to the temple destruction. A few prominent temples could not be saved; but local shrines were often a matter of adjustment with local officials, as the official news-reports from Ajmer testify.

On the whole, while one might deplore the long term effects of Aurangzeb’s Religious policy, specially the way it echoes poison and embitter modern minds. Its short term effects were probably not very significant. To a writer like Bhimsen, who though loyal to the Mughal cause, is also capable of being a friendly critic, the real problem with Aurangzeb was the increasing economic pressure on the peasantry, in which connection he lists the jizya, and the way Aurangzeb was concentrating on taking forts while leaving the country to the Marathas. He does not seem to think that Aurangzeb’s religious measures by themselves had any role in his difficulties. So also Manucci, whose long discourse on the ills of the Mughal Empire in the last years of Aurangzeb’s reign, does not even once brings in the question of any popular hostility aroused against Aurangzeb on account of his religious policy.

One may, on the whole, say that given Aurangzeb’s personal inclination, his religious policy was framed to win some sectional support in a period of political difficulty. The support he won on this basis was probably limited; the support he lost was perhaps even more limited. But the ills of the Mughal Empire were far more deep rooted than to be cured by such measures, or for that matter, be made much worse.

Aurangzeb and Music:

It is generally stressed that one of the worst sufferers during the reign of Aurangzeb was the art of Music. It has been argued that Aurangzeb being a bigot was against music which he banned soon after ascending the throne. There has been an overwhelming reliance on just two near contemporary sources, Manucci’s Storia do Mogor (begun 1699) and Khafi Khan’s Muntakhab al-Lubab (begun 1718). According to Manucci, he not only ‘banned’ music from the court but also arrested those from whose houses he heard its sound. He would also break the instruments. This resulted in a ‘great destruction of musical instruments as well.

However we have a different kind of information as well.

After the death and execution of Dara, we have evidence (cited by Jadunath, vol. III) that Aurangzeb demanded from Shahjahan women singers of Dara. Why? – ‘As there is no skilled songstress with me whose music may soothe my ears!’

Even after 1668 when the ban on music is said to have been imposed, we find that music still remained not only as part of court functions – the ensemble – but also within the haram. Manucci himself tells us that music remained allowed for queens and the princesses. Manucci also provides us with the names of 33 Superintendants in the haram who were ‘overseers of music’. They had Hindu names – Surosh Bai, Chanchal Bai, Dhyan Bai etc – who were however Muslims. Each had under her charge about 10 apprentices. Manucci further informs us that each queen had her own set of musicians.

In a letter reproduced both by Ruqqat-i Alamgiri and Rag Darpan, written to his son Muhammad A‘zam Shah around c.1690 Aurangzeb demonstrates that, at least in private, the exact opposite was the case. In praising his own father’s way of life, he wrote:

After sunset he retired from the ‘Divan-i-Am’, offered evening prayers and (then) entered his special private chamber. There were present sweet tongued historians, eloquent story-tellers, sweet-voiced musicians [qawwalani khush al-han]. . .In short, His Majesty passed, till midnight, the hours of day and night, in this manner, and (thus) did justice to life and sovereignty. As (my) paternal love regarding (my) son is from the heart (i.e. true) and not from the pen (i.e. false), I was obliged to write and inform (my) dear son what was good and valuable.

bherī or dhol, from the chapter on instruments. Ghunyat al-Munya (British Library IO Islamic 1863, f. 47v)

It conclusively demonstrates contrary to expectation that he considered the patronage and performance of music, at least in relation to the qawwals, to be essentially ‘good and valuable’. In this letter he strongly recommends Shah Jahan’s practice to his son. It is impossible to argue on this basis that Aurangzeb actively discouraged his subjects from listening to music.

That his patronage was not simply a concession to court ceremonial is demonstrated by Bakhtawar Khan in the Mir’at-i ‘Alam, which describes Aurangzeb as possessing a ‘perfect expert’s knowledge’ of, and enjoying, the musical art. The high-ranking nobleman Faqirullah described Aurangzeb’s favourite singers and instrumentalists by name in 1666 in his musical treatise Rag Darpan, and noted the emperor’s enthusiastic enjoyment of their talents.

We have further evidence to show that music in fact was never buried deep!

More musical treatises in Persian were written during Aurangzeb’s reign than in the previous 500 years of Muslim rule in India, and all of them make significant references to current music making.

The two major Persian language works on music, the Rag Darpan and the Tuhfat ul Hind were written during Aurangzeb’s reign. Both works are very crucial for Hindustani music history. Rag Darpan was written in 1665 by Faqirullah, an expert of music recruited in Mughal service during the reign of Shahjahan. Under Aurangzeb he was not only bestowed a title, Saif Khan, but also elevated as the governor of three subas: Kashmir, Allahabad and Multan. The work is a translation of the famous treatise on music, Man Kautuhal originally written at Gwalior under Raja Man Singh Tomar (1486-1516).

Tuhfat ul Hind, on the other hand was written by a person known either as Mirza Jan / Mirza Khan / Mirza Muhammad. It is in five parts, of which one is totally devoted to music. One of its chapters deals with tala (musical metres). This work was written either for Aurangzeb or for his favourite son Prince Azam, a great patron of literature, poetry and music.

As Prince Azam was only fifteen years old in 1668, and died in the same year as his father, Katherine Butler Brown points out, his entire career as a patron coincided with the years of Aurangzeb’s supposed ‘ban’. A‘zam was famous for his superior musicianship. According to Bindraban Das, (Safina-i Khushgu), he was unequalled in his knowledge of the fundamentals of music and dance, and even the great masters asked his advice. He possessed a perfect command of many genres of Hindavi poetry, and he was above all famed for his excellent musical compositions.

Not only music continued to exist but it also actively evolved during this reign. this is demonstrated by the modern works of Bonnie C Wade and Katherine Butler Brown. Thus from a Sanskrit work – an important text on music – prepared during the same reign (1665) Sangitaparijata of Ahobala, we come to know that the tambur, a drone instrument, came to be indigenized and was available both in its fretted and unfretted version.

The reign of Aurangzeb was a reign of popularisation of music. The Mirzanama of Mirza Kamran, written no earlier than 1672, shows that musical patronage continued as customary amongst the Mughal amirs. The popular masnavi of Muhammad Akram Ghanimat, Nairang-i ‘Ishq, written in 1685, makes extensive (if partly allegorical) commentary on the presence of musicians and dancers at mehfils he attended, one of whom he famously fell in love with. A large number of Aurangzeb’s amirs are remembered as patrons of music during his reign, including many who were his close associates and relatives. The father of Aurangzeb’s principal wife, Shah Nawaz Khan Safavi, is described in the Ma’asir al-Umara’ as having ‘given his heart to rag. . . He gathered together singers and instrumentalists, the like of which were not to be found in any other place at that time’.


The above discussion brings out the fact that all these measures of Aurangzeb are not so simple to interpret. At the time of Rathor Rebellion Prince Akbar had written a letter to his father reminding him of the fact that he (Aurangzeb) could never have gained the thrown but for the support of the Rajputs. The fact that most Hindu nobles had kept supporting Aurangzeb is well established. So why was he imposing Jizya and demolishing temples? He took these measures only in face of rebellions against his rule. For 22 years he did not think of Jizya, as no revolt had occurred. He forbade Rani Hadi to demolish temples in Jodhpur inspite of her offer, simply because there was no need. No rebellion had occurred. And when an area became zor talab, he had no option.

Similarly the curtailment of music was also aimed as an economic measure. The music was never “buried”, it in fact flourish, and even percolated down to the masses. His son too was into music and dance!

Aurangzeb was nothing but a sovereign dictator whose policies were aimed at furthering his empire.

• Syed Ali Nadeem Rezavi



Religion under Aurangzeb: Some Early Measures

There were a number of early measures initiated by Aurangzeb which have been interpreted as ‘religious measures’. Were they taken in order to pamper the Turani Hanafi Sunni Muslim orthodox elements? For example such practices as tuladan (weighing against gold & silver) as well as jharokha darshan were stopped. Khafi Khan informs that Aurangzeb ‘gave up sitting at the jharokha and ordered people not to assemble for the ceremony’. Prohibition was imposed on the consumption of wine. The usual way of saluting (the chahar taslim) was also discouraged. The science of astrology was also banned and the patronage to the astrologers was withdrawn: no almanacs were to be made heretofore.

Then in 1664, Surat was sacked by Shivaji. Around the same time, Aurangzeb ordered that the custom duties on goods imported by the Muslims should be half as compared to the duty levied on the goods imported by the non-Muslims. This enhancement of duty by100% on goods imported by non-Muslims as compared to their Muslim counter-parts was apparently a discriminatory action of Aurangzeb. But some historians have tried to give and extended interpretation to this obviously discriminatory measure: a compensation for the lack of Muslim commerce!            

After this measure, the Muslims started importing goods belonging to the Hindu merchants in their own name and divided the surplus customs duty. This resulted in a loss to exchequer. Ultimately Aurangzeb withdrew the customs duty from the Muslims altogether.

Just after the accession, Aurangzeb ordered that the nobles should not wear the coloured garments: colours which were prohibited in Islam. Then he banned music which was considered un-Islamic. Musicians protested against this, and when Aurangzeb was going to offer prayers riding an elephant, musicians carried a fake funeral, all the time weeping. When asked, Aurangzeb was told that music had died and they were carrying its bier. Aurangzeb retorted bury it so deep that it never comes out again!

Sir Jadunath is of the opinion that it was banned because of religious considerations. But RP Tripathi is of the opinion, that in the same year in which the music was banned, the allowances of the princes and princesses were also curtailed. As we have already discussed that the early years of Aurangzeb were marked with a financial crisis. Thus to Tripathi, ban on music was an economic device curtailing unproductive matters.

 But one of the most important and relevant action taken by Aurangzeb in this connection was the liberal attitude towards the madad-i ma’ash holders (revenue free grantees). Madad-i ma’ash was maintenance grant to ulema and mashaikh so that they may pray for the long life of the emperor and the prosperity of the empire without concern for their maintenance. 90% of the recipients of such grants were Muslims. Sole justification for this was only that they should concentrate undisturbed in their academic pursuits. This grant was only in the form of land; rozina or daily cash allowance was very rare. In 1670’s and 80’s, Aurangzeb was having political problems with the zamindars: as has been argued, the Jat rebellion, the Rathore rebellion, etc were all zamindar uprisings. Ninety percent of the zamindars were Hindus; and by and large (i.e., around 70%) of the Jagirdars were Muslims. That is why Sir Jadunath Sarkar defined it as a ‘Hindu Reaction’. Secondly, the zamindars were concentrated in the villages. What Aurangzeb did was that to counteract the growing influence of the zamindars in the rural areas, he (a) created Muslim zamindars at the village levels to counteract the growing influence of the Hindu zamindars; and (b) He made madad-i ma’ash holders permanent and in some places, hereditary – just at par with the zamindari rights.   

We have the evidence from Tarikh-i Aurangzeb of Abul Fazl Mamuri. Mamuri says that before his departure from Deccan (before 1681), Aurangzeb was faced with a Jagirdari crisis. Mamuri used the phrase: hama ālam bējāgīr mand.

Before his departure for the Deccan, Mamuri says, Aurangzeb exercised care and caution in granting promotions or fresh appointments to the Rajputs. And the jagis so saved, by placing restrictions on promotions and appointments to Rajputs, became loaves and fishes which Aurangzeb gave to the Muslims to consolidate them behind the throne. It appears that Aurangzeb succeeded in his plans.

We have seen that the institution of the monarchy had been weakened by the way Aurangzeb ascended the throne. A new prestige had to be added to the institution of the monarchy if the same process was to be avoided: and that is why Aurangzeb made a deliberate attempt to attach religious sanctity to the institution of the monarchy. That is why Aurangzeb chose to be known as Alamgir and zindapir. He made a determined and deliberate attempt to prove his vigour and to emerge as a vigorous king by sanctioning military expeditions. He failed as natural geographical barriers had been reached during the reign of Shahjahan. And when he failed on the political front and a chain reaction started, he tried to conceal his failures behind the shield of emphasising on Shariat. Ultimately, the die was cast and the day of all precautionary measures dawned when in 1679, his youngest son Prince Akbar revolted and wrote a very nasty letter to his father in which he pointed out that ‘you are responsible for the death of Shah Shuja, Dara and so forth, and now it is you who are teaching morality…’. But the fiasco, with which the rebellion of Akbar ended with his flight to Persia, is the conclusive evidence that Aurangzeb had succeeded in binding the Muslim aristocracy behind the Mughal throne by emphasising the Shariat laws. It was in the same year that Jizya was imposed. Why did Aurangzeb not impose the jizya from 1658 to 1679? What was the sudden need now?

• Syed Ali Nadeem Rezavi