Carrying the mantle till the last moment

Despite being 89 years old, feeble and disillusioned, Aurangzeb continued to work to the best of his abilities and was remarkably well preserved for his age.

Published: 19th December 2013 03:29 PM  |   Last Updated: 19th December 2013 03:29 PM   |  A+A-


A s Aurangzeb frittered away the legacy of Babur in protracted wars in the Deccan, the coffers were being emptied and the administration in Delhi slipped into disrepair.

The Mughal empire had become large, unwieldy and ungovernable. It could have been sustained by good administration but Aurangzeb was not an efficient administrator like Sher Shah.

Even though Aurangzeb had an enormous advantage of resources like men and materials over his enemies, these proved to be illusory due to corruption and administrative incompetence.

The empire was on the verge of bankruptcy and the emperor was unable to meet his expenses from his revenue. He then had no recourse but to draw on the accumulated treasures of his ancestors. Most provinces under Mughal rule

produced hardly any surplus revenue and the remittances were irregular.

The Mughal giant was  crippled in body and spirit. He and his empire were a shadow of their former selves. How could this have happened? After all, Aurangzeb did not have any vices like Jahangir and Shahjahan. He was hardworking, crafty and a tenacious fighter. This man could have been a great success but alas it was not to be.

As Hindustan disintegrated into chaos, the lords of the chaos were the Marathas and not the Mughals. The Marathas vandalised and plundered the disintegrating empire but did not show any inclination to enforce their own authority by ousting the Mughals.

The Marathas really had a vested interest in prolonging the anarchy. Having an ineffective Aurangzeb at the helm of affairs suited them. They distributed sweets and money in charity praying for the long life of the emperor whose inept rule was bringing them such unimaginable benefits.

In fact, many Mughal officers in charge of districts were in the pay of both parties and were likewise happy with the prevailing state of confusion.

It was a long while before the Marathas realised that they had squandered a historic opportunity to become the successors of the Mughal empire.

Their plundering hordes failed to comprehend that they were the conquerors. As they tore at the flesh of the dying lion, they were so blinded by the easy riches that  were there for the taking, they lost the vision  to see that they could have been the kings of the jungle themselves.

Aurangzeb’s last few years were wretched as he trudged from fort to fort and battlefield to battlefield in his pointless quest to subjugate the Deccan under Mughal rule till at last his body gave up. As he became seriously ill and began to sink, the imperial camp was gripped with fear of the real possibility of civil war and fear of the Marathas.

Eighty-nine years of age, he was feeble and disillusioned. All his brothers and sisters were dead as were some of his children and grandchildren. He continued to work to the best of his abilities, trying to keep up appearances and holding a make-believe durbar from his bed in the courtyard of his tent.

He was remarkably well preserved for his age, a long way from the sickly child that Shahjahan once fretted over. He was devotedly looked after by his daughter Zinatunnissa, who was herself an old maid of 63, and his wife, Udipuri.

Court astrologers feared the worst and advised Aurangzeb to donate an elephant and a valuable diamond to charity to avert the evil stars. However, the king still had his wits about him and disagreed with the suggestion, pointing out that donating elephants was the practice of Hindus and of star worshippers.

Instead, he gave 4,000 rupees to the chief Kazi for alms giving.

As he slipped into unconsciousness in March, 1707, by force of habit the fingers of the dying king continued to tell the beads of the rosary he held. The king’s wish was that his tomb, like that of his beloved sister Jahanara, should be lowly and simple.

His body was conveyed to the tomb of the Saint Zain-ul-Haq in Khuldabad, four miles to the west of Daulatabad. His grave was marked by a simple slab of stone, nine feet by seven feet, with a trough cut into it which was filled with earth and planted with green herbs. The tomb has no platform nor any dome over it, but is open to the skies.


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