Audrey Truschke, a teacher of History at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey, USA toils hard to present a fresh biography of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, debunking the theory enunciated about him as a murderer, Hindu hater, bigot and religious zealot.
She digs deep to scout histories, Imperial Orders (Firmans), their princely parallel, Nishans, news reports (Akhbarat), his personal letters, European travelogues and other Hindi, Persian and Sanskrit documents to buttress her argument that Aurangze needs not to be understood as per popular image but in Historical terms as he was a man of his times, not ours.
She has divided the book into eight chapters, besides a note on Reading Medieval Persians Texts.
The book Aurangzeb: The "man and the Myth", is published by Penguin.
She has relied on material sources such as paintings, buildings and coins besides secondary sources to build a narrative that Aurangzeb's world view was shaped by his piety, the Mughal culture which he inherited, acted according to his ideals of justice, commitment to political and ethical conduct (Adaab and Akhlaq) and the necessities of politics.
The writer has rightly argued that Aurangzeb suffered badly because of politically fuelled narratives of him in public discourse. Aurangzeb the Bigot and Aurangzeb The Pious. This first image is whipped up by the Hindu Rightists in India to fan anti-Muslim feelings and the second image is projected by Muslims Rightists to frame the image that Islam is fundamentally at odds with Hinduism.
The writer has attributed the idea to work on this project to the impact of social media as Post Modi India has started to malign him with extra vim. As per the writer this image of Aurangzeb is not new as he was portrayed and, in fact, was rebuked by J.L Nehru as a bigot and an austere puritan. As per the writer an objective assessment of the person of Aurangzeb is possible only when his life is holistically taken into count and not by cherry picking.
Aurangzeb's alleged temple desecrations, Machiavellian political instincts, violent tactics, persecution of select religious communities, and so forth has been scholarly conserved by the author by quoting a number of Persian texts and other material.
She has constantly provoked the writer to focus on three aspects of his life to understand him, the Imperial bureaucracy, his view of himself as a moral leader and his policies regarding Hindu and Jaina Temples.
She has disclosed a largely unknown secret of Aurangzeb's life that despite being a puritan Muslim he fell head over heals in love when he saw Hirabai, a singer and dancer at Burhanpur, besides his love for Udaipur.
She has tried to show that few (not more than 20) temples were attacked not for religious reasons but in the context of violent campaigns for political conquest and as a statement of regime change. She has also projected the generous acts done by Aurangzeb (though he is condemned and reviled as the killer of his brother) as atonement of his harsh treatment towards his brothers.
She has disclosed that in pursuit of power when he imprisoned his father Sharief of Macca declined to recognize him and the Safavid King Shah Sulayman accused him of Pidir Giri in place of Alam Giri to show how the global politics of the times was working. Aurengzeb retorted by touting his merciful termination of 80 taxes.
She has candidly admitted that Aurengzeb was infused with his fixation on justice, albeit sprinkled with healthy doses of a knack for devious politicking and an unquenchable thirst for power.
She has pooh poohed the notion that he was philistine and was allergic to music by referring to a musical treatise dated to 1666, Faqirullahs Rag Darpan which lists the names of Aurangzeb's favourite singers and instrumentalists.
The author has justified his actions by saying that Aurangzeb did not always use diplomacy to resolve threats to state security as using violence was standard political tactic of the time.
It is interesting to note that Hindus figure well in his massive bureaucracy. As against 24 high ranking Hindu nobles who supported Dara Shikoh, 21 supported Aurangzeb. As against 22.5 percent Hindus share in Mughal administration during the reign of Akbar it rose to nearby 50 percent during Aurangzeb. This historical fact has been ferreted out by the author, which otherwise is kept in oblivion. This dramatic use featured a substantial influx of Marathas as a strategic aspect of expanding Mughal sovereignty across the Deccan.
The author has scouted over the ancient chronicles to prove that over the course of his reign numerous clashes erupted between Islamic religious ideals and Mughal state interests but he preferred the later almost invariably like siege and subsequent killings during Bijapur and Golconda expeditions of the Muslim when he claimed to protect.
Aurangzeb was not essentially only anti Hindu, which is being projected, in fact, he has taken some Islamic scholars head on for their "heretic" teaching like Sheikh Ahmad sirhindi, The Mahdavis and targeted the Ismail Bohras.
Chapter six of the book chronicles the list of temples, both Hindu and Jaina, which were protected by him and which has been documented to show that he has protected by way of generous endowments to thousands of temples as compared to demolition of 20 odd temples.
Last two chapters furnish the reason of down fall of Mughal Empire which erroneously are generally attributed to Aurangzeb.
The author mentions that Aurangzeb alone can't be held responsible for disintegration of the Mughal Empire, rather a plethora of reasons are to be accounted for. The author has portrayed the end of the gigantic Mughal Empire by mentioning that the penultimate Mughal ruler, Akbar Shah II was reduced to be serving as a living museum exhibit and charged foreign visitors for an audience in order to make ends meet.
This book is strongly recommended for the people who want to study history above and besides the Right and the Left, and who are serious to uncover the untold side of an event or an individual. Who are interested in the character, in place of caricature.