A much-maligned Mughal
Truschke (Audrey)
Source: Aeon, 05 April, 2017
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Introduction

  1. Aurangzeb Alamgir, the sixth ruler of the Mughal Empire, is the most hated king in Indian history. He ruled for nearly 50 years, from 1658 until 1707, the last great imperial power in India before British colonialism. According to many, he destroyed India politically, socially and culturally.
  2. Aurangzeb’s list of alleged crimes is long and grave. He is charged with fighting protracted, pointless wars in central and southern India and thereby fatally weakening the Mughal state. He is envisioned as a cruel despot who brutally murdered enemies, including his own brothers. He is regarded as a cultural dolt, uninterested in the extraordinary arts of south Asia, even hostile to them.

Author’s Conclusion
  1. Aurangzeb is a critical figure to understanding India’s past. However, many in modern India are uninterested in recovering the historical Aurangzeb, preferring instead to slander a distorted memory of the king. This approach to history as a blank slate that can reflect our modern ideas – even to the extreme of entirely rewriting the past – is dangerous. Often, the true purpose of ahistorically condemning Aurangzeb is to galvanise anti-Muslim sentiments.
  2. We must embrace the project of understanding Aurangzeb on his own terms in order to gain a more accurate perspective on this influential emperor and the world he helped to create. Studying Aurangzeb also helps to challenge modern ignorance and hate by presenting us with a complicated man that we cannot explain by simple reference to modern categories and biases. Knowing more about Aurangzeb is important, both for India’s past – and India’s present.


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