There are two opposite sides of Emperor Aurangzeb Alamgir;I would like to present both sides briefly before coming to a conclusion.
A Ferocious villain:
In 1660 Aurangzeb emerged as the undisputed Emperor of Hindustan. He outmanoeuvred his three brothers, Dara Shukoh, Shah Shuja, and Murad. He executed two of his brothers, driven the third out of Hindustan, and locked away his ill father Shah Jahan in Agra’s Red Fort. He had Sarmad Kashani arrested and beheaded, who was accused and convicted of atheism and unorthodox religious practice. He also punished those he believed had helped Shivaji escape. He had the Sikh guru Tegh Bahadur executed for taking up arms against the Mughal state. During his princely years he targeted the Ismaili Bohras, harassed them throughout his reign as king, and executed the 32nd Absolute Missionary of theDawoodi Bohra sect of Islam Syedna Qutubkhan Qutubuddin.Throughout his reign Aurangzeb crushed rebellions, waged wars of expansion.
Abul Hasan Qutb Shah, the last ruler of the Qutb Shahi dynasty refused to surrender. He and his servicemen fortified themselves at Golconda and fiercely protected the Kollur Mine, which was then probably the world’s most productive diamond mine, and an important economic asset. Aurangzeb and his army managed to penetrate the walls by capturing a gate prompting the army and the ruler to surrender peacefully and hand over the Nur ul Ain Diamond, Great Stone Diamond, Kara Diamond, Darya-e-Nur, making the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb the richest monarch in the world.
Aurangzeb changed the name of one of Hinduism’s holiest cities, Banaras, to Muhammadabad. After the Jaat rebellion in Mathura, Aurangzeb ordered the city’s Kesava Deo temple demolished. In 1679, he ordered destruction of several prominent temples that had become associated with his enemies, including those of Khandela, Udaipur, Chittor and Jodhpur. He ordered the destruction of Vishvanath Temple at Varanasi for being a centre of conspiracy against the state, and he ordered the destruction of the Jama Masjid at Golkonda after finding out that its ruler had built the mosque in order to hide revenues from the state. Aurangzeb robust festivities on Nauruz, cancellation of Eid celebrations on a grand scale, curbed the boisterous festivity associated with Holi, Diwali and Muharram. He once chastised his son Muazzam for participating in Nauruz festival. At times Aurangzeb persecuted specific Muslim groups whose doctrines ran afoul of his vision of Islam. He ordered Bohra mosques to hold five prayers. Nobody knows the exact numbers of temples demolished on Aurangzeb’s order. He introduced jizya in 1679 in response to several events shortly before its introduction: the great Rajput rebellion, the Maratha alliance with the Shia Golconda.
A Pious King:
Initially, Aurangzeb’s cultural and courtly activities followed earlier Mughal kings. He upheld many Mughal practices derived from Hindu customs. He appeared daily to his subjects in the palace window to give auspicious glimpse. On his birthdays he was publicly weighed in gold and silver, which was reportedly cancelled after few years. He erected a monumental tomb Bibi ka Maqbara in Aurangabad for his first wife, Dilras Bano Begum.
Aurangzeb built more temples than he destroyed. He allowed the repair and maintenance of existing temples, and even made generous donations of jagirs to many temples to gain the goodwill of his Hindu subjects. There are several orders in his name, supporting temples and gurudwaras, including Mahakaleshwar temple of Ujjain, Balaji temple of Chitrakoot, Umananda Temple of Guwahati and the Shatrunjaya Jain temples, among others.
He memorised Quran and sewed prayer caps and copied the Quran by his own hands. He prayed with greater regularity than his forefathers, and abstained from alcohol and opium.At different points he tried to bar the alcohol, opium, prostitution, gambling, and public celebrations of religious festivals. Aurangzeb compiled the Fatawa e Alamgiri, a synthesis of Hanafi legal judgements, and was among the few monarchs to have fully established Sharia law and Islamic economics throughout the Indian subcontinent. He sponsored the construction of Badshahi Mosque Lahore at the time it was built; it was the largest mosque in the world. Aurangzeb felt that verses from the Quran should not be stamped on coins, as done in former times, because they were constantly touched by the hands and feet of people.
Aurangzeb’s sovereign bureaucracy employed more Hindus than that of his predecessors. Between 1679 and 1707, the number of Hindu officials in the Mughal administration rose by half, many of them Marathas and Rajputs. His increasing employment of Hindus and Shia Muslims was deemed controversial at the time, with several of his fellow Sunni Muslim officials petitioning against it, which he rejected, and responded, “What connection have earthly affairs with religion? And what right have administrative works to meddle with bigotry? ‘For you is your religion and for me is mine. He insisted on employment based on ability rather than religion.(Aurangzeb by Audrey Truschke)
Aurangzeb struck hard against enemies who threatened the integrity or peace of the Mughal state, no matter their status or religion. He was not anti-Hinduism, Sikhism, or Shi’ism. Ram Puniyani states that Aurangzeb was not fanatically anti-Hindu, but rather continuously adapted his policies depending on circumstances. I totally reject the claim that he wanted to convert all Hindus and Sikhs to Muslims. If that was the case he would’ve accepted/acknowledged Ottoman Empire, instead he helped the rebellions and offered them asylum in his Kingdom. If he was against Shias, he wouldn’t have invited the most famous Shia scholar Mullah Baqar Majlisi of recent history to his kingdom thrice. I personally believe that they liked each other because of their common views about the implementation of Sharia and disagreements with Sufiism. Aurangzeb’s incursions into the Pashtun areas were described by Khushal Khan Khattak as Black is the Mughal’s heart towards all of us Pathans. Pashtuns were not Hindus or Sikhs, they were Muslims. Forget the brothers he did not even spare his own son. He was brutal, barbarous, callous and merciless to his enemies. He simply didn’t like any opposition against him. He was a notable expansionist who was widely feared not respected. The conquest of Shia Golconda by 1689, Mughal victories in the south expanded the Mughal Empire to 4 million square kilometres. But the supremacy was short-lived.
I know not who I am, where I shall go, or what will happen to this sinner full of sins. . . . My years have gone by profitless. God has been in my heart, yet my darkened eyes have not recognized his light. . . . There is no hope for me in the future. The fever is gone, but only the skin is left. … I have greatly sinned, and know not what torments await me. . . .