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Aurangzeb: Anti-Hindu Policies, Revolts and Rebels, and the Mughal-Maratha Wars

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Muhi-al-Din Muhammad or Aurangzeb ruled as the sixth emperor of the Mughal Empire. He gained the throne by defeating and beheading his elder brother Dara Shikoh. He ruled the Mughal Empire from 1658 till his death in 1707.

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The Mughal empire reached its peak under Aurangzeb’s rule as well as its destruction by the end of his rule. At the peak of his reign Aurangzeb, meaning ‘bringing honor to the throne’, gave himself another title of ‘alam-giri’ or ‘Conqueror of the World’. The Persian King refused to recognize Aurangzeb as a true Muslim due to Aurangzeb’s imprisonment of his father. Moreover, he taunted Aurangzeb as a ‘pidar-giri’ or ‘Conqueror of his Father’. 

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What were Aurangzeb’s anti-Hindu policies?

Aurangzeb was a religious zealot. His austere belief in the truth of Quran was evident in his actions during the 49 years reign. His policy of Islamic law in the Mughal Empire instigated several anti-Hindu policies like the following:

  1. He re-imposed abolished ‘Jizya’ on the Hindu community. This was an tax imposed on non-Muslim residents of the Mughal Empire for their continued stay in the Dar-al-Islam or land of Muslims. It was a form of punishment of Hindus for not converting to Islam under the Mughal rule.
  2. He imposed 5% customs duties on Hindus traders, while Muslim traders paid 2% custom duties. This was to ensure the proliferation of Islamists in the Mughal Empire. This also worked as a non-violent coercion strategy to encourage conversion to Islam. 
  3. He ordered the destruction of temples and schools at various stages of his rule in India. This was an act of oppression against the Hindu majority of the Mughal empire.
  4. He stopped the royal patronage to fine arts. Music and dance were lost as a form of art. He only encouraged Islamic prayers and conversations. His love for Islam came before his love for humans. 
  5. He adopted Sharia Law for both the Muslim and non-Muslim community in his empire. This ensured that Hindus and other non-Muslims suffered as infidels are supposed to under the law of Allah.
  6. He prohibited Hindu fairs, building of new temples, and repair of old temples. This was an attempt to limit the access to places of religious congregation to Hindus.

Which kingdoms opposed Aurangzeb? 

Aurangzeb faced trouble from several kingdoms. Here is list of all the rulers that opposed Aurangzeb and his ambitions to expand the Mughal Empire:  

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  1. Rana Raj Singh of Mewar: Rana Raj Singh was a valiant Rajput ruler who fiercely resisted Aurangzeb’s expansionist policies. He defended his kingdom of Mewar and resisted the Mughal Empire from the late 1650s until his death in 1680.
  2. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj: Chhatrapati Shivaji was the founder of the Maratha Empire. He was a prominent adversary of Aurangzeb’s oppressive rule. The conflict between Shivaji and Aurangzeb spanned from the late 1650s until Shivaji’s death in 1680.
  3. Raja Jaswant Singh of Marwar: Raja Jaswant Singh was the ruler of Marwar. He was a staunch opponent of Aurangzeb’s policies. He resisted Aurangzeb’s attempts to annex Marwar and fought against the Mughal forces during the late 1660s and early 1670s.
  4. Guru Gobind Singh: The tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, led the Sikh community in opposition to Aurangzeb’s religious intolerance and persecution. He initiated a series of military campaigns against the Mughal Empire and sought to protect the rights and freedom of Sikhs. The Sikh resistance against Aurangzeb took place during the late 1670s and early 1680s.
  5. Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj: After the death of his father Maharaj Shivaji, Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj took charge of the Maratha Empire. He vehemently opposed Aurangzeb’s rule and continued the resistance against the Mughals from late 1680s – early 1700s.

Aurangzeb’s Mughal Empire and Maratha Empire’s Wars:

The Maratha-Aurangzeb (Maratha-Mughal) wars mark a significant chapter in Indian history. They represent a fierce struggle for power and independence of Hindus against Islamic oppression. The Marathas rose as a dynamic force due to the Bhakti movement. The Bhakti movement encouraged new literature that enriched the local language and popularized religious sentiments.

This infused a powerful emotional appeal to all sections of the Hindus in the Mughal Empire. The increasing faith of Marathas in their identity and religion helped them repel the Mughal forces.

The conflicts of Aurangzeb with the militarized force of Marathas gave birth to the Maratha Empire under the leadership of Chhatrapati Shivaji Bhonsle and his successors. The clashes between the Marathas and Aurangzeb’s forces had far-reaching implications for the political landscape of the Indian subcontinent. Under the visionary leadership of Shivaji Maharaj, the Marathas emerged as a formidable force in the Deccan region. Shivaji’s military acumen and organizational skills allowed him to establish a strong and independent Maratha state right under the nose of Aurangzeb. Aurangzeb sought to bring the Marathas under his control and initiated a series of campaigns against them.

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A few major battles that were fought between the Marathas and Aurangzeb’s Military are:

Battle of Pratapgad (1659):

This clash between Shivaji Maharaj and the Mughal general Afzal Khan. Marathas won a decisive victory against Afzal and his army. Chhatrapati Shivaji’s cunning tactics led to the defeat of the much larger Mughal force.

Battle of Kolhapur (1660):

The Marathas led by Shivaji Maharaj successfully repelled the combined forces of Bijapur and the Mughals in this battle. They affirmed their dominance in the region by repelling the Mughal forces.

Battle of Sinhagad (1670):

This battle is known for the legendary defense of the Sinhagad fort by Tanaji Malusare, a trusted lieutenant of Chhatrapati Shivaji. Though the Marathas lost Tanaji in the battle, they managed to repel the Mughals and maintained their control over the fort of Sinhagad.

Battle of Salher (1672):

The Marathas, under the leadership of Maharaja Shivaji’s trusted general, Baji Prabhu Deshpande fought against the Mughal forces led by Diler Khan. They emerged victorious against Mughal armies.

Battle of Palkhed (1679):

This significant battle was led by Shivaji’s son Sambhaji. He defeated the Mughal forces that were under the command of Daud Khan. The Marathas’ superior military strategies and determination secured their triumph in this war.

Implications of Aurangzeb’s continued conflict with the Marathas  

The Maratha-Aurangzeb wars had profound consequences for the Mughal Empire and the Maratha Empire. The Marathas’ consistent resistance against Aurangzeb’s ambitions shattered the myth of Mughal invincibility and weakened the empire’s grip on the Deccan region. The conflicts highlighted the Marathas’ military prowess, organizational skills, and their ability to effectively govern vast territories.

Furthermore, the Maratha-Aurangzeb wars played a crucial role in fostering a sense of regional identity and independence among the Maratha community. They laid the foundation for the rise of the Maratha Empire, which eventually became one of the most influential political entities in India.

The Maratha-Aurangzeb wars represent a struggle for power, independence, and regional identity. The Marathas’ cunning determination, military acumen, and charismatic leadership enabled them to withstand the might of the Mughal Empire. Near the end of life Aurangzeb wrote to his son lamenting about the increasing Maratha influence in the Deccan region despite his efforts to control them for 27 years. These conflicts reshaped the political landscape of India and left an indelible mark on the collective consciousness of the Indian people, reminding them of the valor and resilience displayed by the Marathas in their quest for freedom.




  4. Spear, T. Percival. “Aurangzeb.” Encyclopedia Britannica, May 20, 2023.
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