• Aurangzeb ascended to the throne in AD 1658 and assumed the title of Alamgir, which means “the Conqueror of the world”.
  • He reigned for a remarkably long period of 50 years. From 1658 AD to 1681 AD, he remained in the north, but after this the political scene shifted from the north to the Deccan. He was a great military commander and was able to crush the kingdoms of Bijapur and Golconda, but his struggle with the Marathas remained indecisive. The last twenty-five years of his reign, which Aurangzeb spent in the Deccan were disastrous for the empire as bankruptcy and maladministration threatened to break it apart.
    • Muhammad Akbar the rebellious son, revolted against his father Aurangzeb in 1681, weakening Aurangzeb’s position against Rajputs.
    • Aurangzeb had the highest number of Hindu generals in the mughal army.
    • Aurangzeb constructed ‘Bibi ka maqbara’, which is an architectural wonder with intricate design, carved motifs, imposing structures and beautifully landscaped mughal style garden. Also known as Rabia-ud-Durani or second Taj Mahal.
    • Moti Masjid inside the Red Fort in Delhi was built by Aurangzeb.
    • Mansabdari system was introduced mainly for effecting clean administration.
    • In 1605, Portuguese introduced tobacco in India. The mughal emperor Jahangir noticed the harmful effect of tobacco and issued an order to ban it in 1617 AD.
Mughal Empire: Aurangzeb (1658-1707)

Northern Phase (1658-81 AD)

  • The expansion of the Mughal Empire continued under Aurangzeb. It was under him that the conquest of Eastern India was taken vigorously.
  • Mir Jumla, the governor of Bengal, set out with a large army to check the aggression of Ahoms of North East. He occupied Cooch Behar and Assam but the terrain was difficult to hold on to and soon Mughals lost the possession.
  • After this, Aurangzeb appointed Shaista Khan as the Governor to lead the charge. He occupied Chittagong and also defeated the Arakanese navy.

Popular Revolts

  • In the first phase, Aurangzeb had to deal with revolts for local independence. Prominent one among these were the revolts of Jats, Satnamis, Sikhs and the Bundelas.


  • The Jats in the region of Delhi and Mathura were the first to revolt. The Jats revolt had a peasant – agrarian background and they used the difficult terrain of the region to their advantage.
  • In 1669 AD, they raised the banner of rebellion under the leadership of a local Zamindar, Gokula. However, they were defeated as Aurangzeb personally marched against them. But the Jats continued their resistance and in 1685, there was a second uprising under the leadership of Rajaram. Jats were much better organised this time and offered a tough fight to Raja Bishan Singh, the Kachhawah ruler appointed by Aurangzeb to crush the rebellion.
  • However, the rebellion ended in 1691 and Rajaram and his successor, Charuman were forced to submit. Later, in the eighteenth Century, taking the advantage of weakening authority of the Mughals, the Jats under Charuman were able to establish an independent principality for themselves.


  • The Satnamis were a peace-loving religious sect, consisting mostly of peasants, artisans and low-caste people. They did not observe distinctions of caste and rank between Hindus and Muslims.
  • The revolt began in 1672 AD due to their conflict with a local officer and soon grew in extent. However, the Satnamis were defeated as Aurangzeb marched in person to Narnaul, a place near Mathura to crush the revolt.


  • The Bundelas, a Rajput clan of Bundelkhand rose in revolt against Aurangzeb’s religious policies which was perceived to be discriminatory against the Hindu subjects.
  • However, the Mughal army successfully suppressed the revolt.


  • The Sikh community came into being when the Guru Nanak founded the new religious sect. Earlier, the relations between the Sikhs and Mughals were harmonious as the fourth Guru, Ram Das, was revered by Akbar and was presented with a land grant in Amritsar. However, the relations were strained when the fifth Guru, Arjun Dev, was executed by Jahangir for supporting the rebellion of Prince Khusrau.
  • The conflict of Sikhs with Aurangzeb came to the fore when in 1675, Guru Tegh bahadur was arrested on charges of creating disturbances in Punjab province and protesting against the religious persecution by Mughals in Kashmir. The Guru was brought to Delhi and executed. His martyrdom provoked the Sikhs to avenge his death. The Sikh movement gradually turned into a military brotherhood, a major role in which was played by the tenth Guru, Gobind Singh, who organised Sikhs into Khalsa and established his headquarters at Anandpur in the foothills of Punjab. In the conflict that ensued, the hill Rajas who were defeated by the Guru in earlier skirmishes, supported the Mughals.
  • Although the Mughals under Wazir Khan were able to prevail upon the Khalsa army and the Guru was forced to retreat, the conquest gave the Sikhs a chance to prove their military might. After the death of Aurangzeb, they carved out a state of their own in Punjab.
Revolts During Aurangzeb’s Reign
JatGokula, Rajaram, ChuramaniAgrarian policy
BundelaChampat Rai, ChhatrasalPolitical and religious
SatnamiFollowers of Satnami SectReligious suppression
SikhGuru Teg Bahadur, Guru Gobind SinghReligious
Rajput (Marwar )Durgadas (General of Ajit Singh)Succession to throne of Marawar
BijapurSikandar Adil ShahViolation of treaty
GolcondaAbut Hasan Kutub ShahHelping Attitude to Maratha
MarathaSambhaji, Rajaram, TarabaiRising aspirations of Maratha nationalism

Rajput Policy

  • Aurangzeb failed to realise the value of alliance with the Rajputs, which had since the time of Akbar contributed so much to the growth of the Mughal Empire. After the death of Raja Jai Singh of Ambar and Raja Jaswant Singh of Marwar, Aurangzeb’s relation with the Rajputs began to deteriorate.
  • When Jaswant Singh died in 1678, he had no surviving son to succeed him to the throne. However, Ajit Singh was born to Rani of Jaswant Singh after his death and Rathor Sardars considered him the rightful heir to the gaddi. In such circumstances, Aurangzeb decided to award the gaddi of Jodhpur, capital of Marwar, to Inder Singh, a grandson of Jaswant Singh’s elder brother. As a compromise, Aurangzeb gave the jagir of two paraganas in Marwar to Ajit Singh. The Rathor Sardars rejected such compromise as it would have led to the division of Marwar.
  • This angered Aurangzeb and he ordered the confinement of the infant Prince Ajit Singh. Rathor Sardars under the leadership of Durgadas rescued Ajit Singh and declared him their ruler. The claim of Ajit Singh was also supported by Rana Raj Singh of Mewar. Thus, Aurangzeb attacked Mewar and Rana was forced to escape to hills from where he continued guerrilla warfare against the Mughals. The conflict was long drawn and depleted resources of the Mughal Empire.
  • A compromise was reached with Rana Jagat Singh, successor of Raj Singh but he was forced to surrender some of his paraganas. Similarly, Ajit Singh was recognised as ruler of Marwar, but the Mughals refused to relax their hold on Jodhpur. Thus, the hostilities prevailed among the two sides till the death of Aurangzeb in 1707.

Deccan Phase (1681- 1707 AD)

  • Akbar was the first among the Mughal emperors to have affected conquests beyond the Vindhyas. He had conquered Khandesh and Berar and inflicted defeat on Ahmednagar. After him, Jahangir too fought against Malik Ambar of Ahmednagar and forced him to submit in AD 1616. However, he could not achieve much political or territorial gains out of these campaigns as Ambar continued his resistance. Under Shah Jahan, the Nizam Shah of Ahmednagar was defeated by Mughal viceroy of Deccan, Mahabat Khan, and sent to Gwalior prison in 1633. Shah Jahan also compelled Bijapur and Golconda to enter into a treaty in 1636, accepting Mughal suzerainty. None of the three Mughal Emperors before Aurangzeb wanted to annex the Deccan territories, as they did not think it would be viable to administer them. This notion was changed with Aurangzeb assuming the throne in 1658.
  • Aurangzeb had already been the viceroy of Deccan during the reign of Shah Jahan. He wanted to follow an aggressive Deccan policy, but could not do so in the first half of his reign as he was kept busy by the rebellions in the North as well as trouble with the Rajputs. Therefore, initially the responsibility of looking after the affairs of the Deccan was left to Raja Jai Singh, who attacked Bijapur in AD 1665 but failed to get the submission of Adil Shah II. However, soon after the death of Adil Shah II, the state of Bijapur went into a political turmoil as there was infighting among the nobles. Taking advantage of this, Mughal commander Diler Khan attacked Bijapur in AD 1679 but still in vain.
  • The main reason of Mughal being unsuccessful was the tripartite alliance of Bijapur, Golconda and Marathas under Shivaji. The three forces stood united against the Mughal attack though there were conflicts within. Thus, the Mughals failed to get any success till Aurangzeb himself reached Deccan in 1681 AD. To contain the spread of Marathas, Aurangzeb attacked Bijapur, which was helped by Golconda and Marathas.
  • However, even the combined forces of Deccan States could not withstand the full strength of the Mughal Army commanded by the Emperor himself. It took eighteen months before Bijapur fell in 1686 AD. Sikandar Adil Shah was granted a pension and Bijapur was annexed to the Mughal Empire.
  • After the fall of Bijapur, the campaign against Golconda was inevitable. Golconda was ruled by Abul Hasan Qutub Shah at that time. Aurangzeb besieged the Golconda Fort in 1687 AD and captured it. Sultan Abul Hasan was imprisoned in the fort of Daulatabad and was given a pension for his life and thus Golconda was annexed to the Mughal Empire.
  • The conquests of Bijapur and Golconda did not complete the conquest of the Deccan by Aurangzeb. The newly risen power of the Marathas posed a formidable challenge to Mughal sovereignty. Taking advantage of Aurangzeb’s preoccupations with rebellion in the north, Shivaji had established an independent kingdom in Maharashtra.
  • Aurangzeb was wary of the growing influence of Shivaji, and hence deputed Shaista Khan to suppress him. Shaista Khan was camped in Poona in AD 1663 when Shivaji made surprise attack on him and he barely escaped death while his army was defeated. Aurangzeb recalled him and deputed Raja Jai Singh to deal with the Marathas.
  • Jai Singh forced Shivaji to sign the treaty of Purandar by which he surrendered three-fourth of his territory and forts and also promised to pay personal homage to the Emperor. Shivaji visited Agra in 1666 AD where he was virtually imprisoned. However, he managed to escape from Agra and resumed his fights against the Mughals. In 1674 AD, he held his coronation and made Raigarh his capital. Shivaji died in 1680 but prior to his death, he had succeeded in establishing quite an extensive kingdom in the south. He was succeeded by his son, Sambhaji.
  • Sambhaji had thrown a challenge to Aurangzeb by giving shelter to the rebel Prince Akbar. However, instead of concentrating his efforts against the Mughals, Sambhaji wasted his resources in futile wars with Sidis on the coast and the Portuguese. He did not even provide active help to Prince Akbar in his campaign against Aurangzeb. Such passive attitude led to Mughal attack on Marathas in which Sambhaji was captured and executed. With this conquest, the entire Maharashtra came under the Mughal Empire.
  • Thus by 1689, though it seemed like the Mughal Empire of Aurangzeb has reached its apex, in reality, it was the beginning of the decline of Mughal Empire. The Marathas found a new leader in Rajaram, Shivaji’s younger son, and frustrated all attempts on the part of the Mughals to extend their authority. After Rajaram’s death, his valiant Queen Tarabai, carried on the war with the Mughals with unusual vigour and compelled Aurangzeb to retire to Ahmednagar where he breathed his last in AD 1707.
  • Aurangzeb’s Deccan policy was a miserable failure. In fact, the destruction of the Deccan kingdoms was a political blunder on the part of Aurangzeb. The barrier between the Mughals and the Marathas was removed and there ensued a direct confrontation between them from then onwards. Also, his Deccan campaigns exhausted the Mughal treasury. Ultimately, this contributed vastly to the disintegration of the Mughal Empire.


  • The administration under Aurangzeb was highly centralised. He looked into the minutest details of administration. He read the petitions submitted to him and either wrote orders with his own hand or dictated them. All his officers and ministers of Administration were kept under his strict control. The ministers of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb were reduced to the status of mere clerks as all the important decisions were taken by the Emperor himself. This resulted in great administrative degeneration and helplessness. Thus, though the framework of the administration remained the same as under his predecessors, a vast change occurred in the manner and the spirit of implementation.
  • At the time of Aurangzeb’s death in 1707, the Mughal Empire consisted of twenty-one provinces, fourteen of which were situated in Northern India; one was Afghanistan, and the remaining six in the Deccan.
  • As in the time of Akbar, every province had a Governor, a Diwan and other officers to assist in governance. During his reign, the provincial administration greatly deteriorated on account of his more than twenty five years’ absence from Northern India and continuous wars in the Deccan.
  • Law and order were disregarded by local chiefs and zamindars in several provinces as the natural result of the weakening of the central authority caused by the emperor ’s obsession with never ending wars and also on account of his unwise policy of religious intolerance.
  • Besides the land revenue, other important sources of government income were zakat (realized from Muslims), jizya (poll tax from Hindus), salt tax, customs duty, mint and spoils from war. The mode of assessment and collection of revenue established by Akbar was replaced by the revenue farming system, allowing the contractors to realize the revenue from the peasants directly, and not by the officials of the state under the direct supervision of the government.
  • On account of this change, the condition of the peasants was worse than under Akbar or Jahangir.
    Foreign trade did not occupy an important place in the economy of the Mughal Empire. India exported indigo and cotton goods. After agriculture, cotton industry provided occupation to the largest number of people. The chief imports into the country were glassware, copper, lead and woollen cloth. Horses from Persia and spices from the Dutch Indies, glassware, wine and curiosities from Europe, slaves from Abyssinia and superior kinds of tobacco from America, were also imported. But the volume of trade was small and the government’s income from import duties was not more than 30 lakhs of rupees a year.
  • The Mughal army under Aurangzeb had increased considerably. He was engaged in fighting throughout his life and naturally, therefore, he needed a much larger army than his predecessors. The expenditure on the army under Aurangzeb was roughly double of that under Shah Jahan. But in spite of the emperor ’s vigilance and strictness and his ability as a general, the administration system and discipline of the Mughal army were far inferior to those in the time of Akbar.

Religious Policy

  • Aurangzeb was a zealous Sunni Muslim. He tried to enforce Quranic laws strictly. Muhtasibs were officials that were appointed in all provinces to check that people lived their lives according to sharia.
    He discontinued the practice of jharokha-darshan, as he considered it a superstitious practice against Islam. He forbade music in the court even though he was a proficient veena player himself. Initially, he forbade destruction of old Hindu Temples and only banned the construction of new Hindu temples. But, after the revolt of Jats, Satnamis and Rajputs, he changed his policy and gave consent to destruction of even old Hindu Temples.
  • The celebrated temples at Mathura and Banaras were reduced to ruins. In 1679 AD, he revived the Jizya tax on non-muslims. This led to widespread resentment among the Hindu subjects as they considered Jizya to be discriminatory against them.
  • Aurangzeb was also not tolerant of other Muslim sects. His invasions against the Deccan sultanates were partly due to his hatred of the Shia faith as the Deccanis were Shias. He was also against the Sikhs and he executed the ninth Sikh Guru Tej Bahadur. This had resulted in the transformation of Sikhs into a warring community, Khalsa.
  • Although it can be said that the religious policy of Aurangzeb had political motives behind it, but more or less he reversed the policy of religious tolerance that was followed by his predecessors. The religious orthodoxy practiced by Aurangzeb led to several revolts by the Marathas, Satnamis, Sikhs and the Jats. These revolts destroyed the peace of the empire, disrupted its economy and weakened its military strength which, ultimately, led not only to the failure of Aurangzeb but also to the downfall of the Mughal Dynasty.
Aurangzeb’s Religious Policy
  • Forbade inscription of kalama on the coins, celebration of Nauroj Festival; Appointment of Muhatasib (Regulator of moral character ) in 1659
  • Banned Sati custom in 1663
  • Banned Hindu festivals in 1668
  • Banned Jharokha Darshan and Forbade music in the court in 1669
  • Banned Tuladan (weighing of the emperor ) in 1670
  • Re-introduced Jizya in 1679

Evaluation of Aurangzeb’s Reign

  • Aurangzeb died in 1707 AD, leaving behind a vast empire that was on the verge of bankruptcy and collapse. His rigid religious policies had alienated not only the Hindus and Sikhs, but also the liberal minded Muslims and he lost the loyalty of most of his subjects. His Deccan campaigns had drained the treasury and disrupted trade and commerce.
  • His preoccupation with the Deccan and the long stay there gave rise to many revolts in the north, as the nobles, the Sikhs and the Rajputs tried to assert their independence. Moreover, being suspicious of his sons, he kept them as far away from himself as he could. Consequently, they failed to receive proper administrative training and became pleasure loving. The administration had become over-centralised and when the iron hand of Aurangzeb became still after his death, there was chaos and the empire disintegrated quickly.
Mughal Empire under Aurangzeb in early 18th century

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments