Aurangzeb Religious Policy

Aurangzeb Religious Policy:

Aurangzeb ruled for almost half a century. During his long reign, the Mughal Empire embraced almost the whole of India- from Kashmir in the north to Jinji in the south, and from the Hindukush in the west to Chittagong in the east.

Shortly after his accession, Aurangzeb issued a number of moral and religious regulations. The object of these regulations was to transform the Mughal Empire into a Muslim state governed by the precepts of the Sharia. He banned sijda or prostration before the ruler and forbade the kalma being inscribed on coins. He ended the practice of celebrating Nauroj or the Iranian New Year, which was a borrowed institution from Persia. In 1659, he created a separate department to enforce moral codes under a high-powered officer called Muhtasib. The Muhtasib assumed some of the duties of the city magistrate, the Kotwal and enforced prohibitions against blasphemy, wine-drinking, gambling and other irreligious practices in public.

In the eleventh year of his reign (1669), Aurangzeb introduced some puritanical measures. He banned singing in the court and dismissed the official musicians. He also discontinued the practice of Jarokhadarshan or presenting himself before the public from a balcony. He prohibited the public display of the Holi and Muharram processions. Aurangzeb aimed at ‘making the general Muslim public act according to the legal decisions and precedents of the theological scholars (ulama) of the Hanafi school’. He, therefore, commissioned a board of scholars to compile the legal text, the Fatawa-i-Alamgiri to serve as a model for correct behaviour and action for orthodox Muslims.

In 1669, Aurangzeb ordered that all temples, recently built or repaired contrary to the Sharia, be demolished. His special targets were the famous temples in the holy cities of Mathura and Varanasi. The result was the destruction of the famous temple of Vishwanath at Banaras and the temple of Keshava Rai at Mathura built by Bir Singh Deo Bundela during the reign of Shah Jahan. Mosques were erected in their place. Many temples in Orissa built during the last ten or twelve years were also demolished. The emperor’s message was political and religious- to exemplify his authority and to establish Islam. There is little doubt that his policy towards the Hindu temples was ‘a setback to the policy of broad toleration followed by his predecessors’. However, after the conquest of Bijapur and Golconda, Aurangzeb modified his policy with the object of conciliating the powerful rajas of Telengana and Karnataka. According to a contemporary observer, Bhimsen “The temples in Bijapur and Hyderabadi Karnatka are beyond numbering, and each temple is like the fort of Parenda and Sholapur. In the whole world nowhere else are there so many temples’.

In 1679, Aurangzeb re-imposed the jiziya on the Hindus which had been abolished by Akbar and had not been re-imposed even by Jahangir or Shah Jahan before him. Certain discriminatory orders were issued against the Hindus, such as the imposition of higher customs duties- five per cent on the goods of the Hindus as against two per cent on those of the Muslims. He granted stipends and gifts to converts from Hinduism and offered them posts in public service. He also persecuted Shiites and Sufis. Thus, Aurangzeb’s religious policy marked the beginning of an intolerant treatment towards the Hindus, who formed the bulk of India’s population. As a result, the Jats of the Mathura region, the Bundelas of Bundelkhand, the Satnamis and the Sikh rose in revolt against the Mughal emperor.

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