Unlike Aurangzeb, among all Mughal emperors Akbar implemented the most liberal religious policy. During Jahangir’s reign, except some occasional outbursts of religious zeal towards Islam, the State maintained the spirit of religious tolerance towards all its subjects.
Shah Jahan, when compared to his father Akbar, undoubtedly favoured Islam: it can be substantiated from the facts that Shah Jahan prevented the celebration of Hindu festival at the court; it was during his reign that some temples were broken and conversion to Islam was encouraged. However, Shah Jahan never pursued the policy of religious persecution and according to some prominent contemporary historians his zeal to support Islam gradually abated during the later years of his reign. It is so the majority of historians have observed that Shah Jahan’s reign can be considered as the period of religious tolerance though it is obvious that his policy was tilted toward bigotry in comparison to the policy implemented by his father and grandfather.
Aurangzeb’s Religious Policy
Aurangzeb, in a complete reversal of the religious policy of Akbar, adopted and implemented a policy of persecuting people of another faiths. Being a fanatic Sunni, Aurangzeb observed and practiced the principles of Islam strictly; he had such faith in Islam that he refused even to think that there could be truth in other religions as well. Aurangzeb believed that even Muslim Shias did not follow true Islam.
Following the Islamic theory of kingship, he tried to convert this Dar-ul-Harb, that is land of infidals, into the kingdom of Dar-ul-Islam (land of Islam). And to fulfil his desire, Aurangzeb utilized the whole machinery of the State. He was of the opinion that prior to him the greatest mistake Mughal rulers did was that they did not attempt to establish the supremacy of Islam. It is so, he devoted his entire life to get his objectives liquidated on the ground.
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Banning Religious events
Aurangzeb forbade engraving kalma on coins, celebration of festival of Nauroj, practices of Jharokha Darshan and Tula-dan and gave marching order to astrologers, musicians and dancers from the royal court. He banned the cultivation of bhang, drinking alcohol and gambling.
He attempted to prohibit the practice of Sati and ordered a blanket ban on the celebration of festivals like Holi, Diwali, Besant etc. at the royal court. In order to ensure the proper celebration of festivals of Muslims, Aurangzeb appointed a new class of officers called Muhtasibs for the purpose. These officers had got the authority to punish the guilty ones. It was not the case that only Hindus were punished, instead during the reign of Aurangzeb, even Shias and Sunnis were punished.
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Persecution of Hindus
Following the policy of persecution of Hindus, Aurangzeb in AD 1669 disallowed Hindus to repair their temples and ordered Muhtasibs and provincial governors to destroy all temples and schools of Hindus. The Hindus were asked not only to pay Jizya but also to pay pilgrim tax. There was no trade tax imposed on Muslims, while the Hindus were asked not only to pay five per cent of the cost of an article as trade-tax. The services of Hindus were terminated from the office of revenue department and no Hindus were given high posts in the army. Aurangzeb imposed all these harsh political, social and economic and religious restrictions on Hindus with an intention to force them to accept Islam.
Consequences of policy of Aurangzeb
Aurangzeb’s policy to forward his religious zeal resulted in serious consequences. It ruined the unity, peace, power and prosperity of the Mughal Empire and therefore proved to be fatal for its future. Aurangzeb’s policy did not harm only his reputation but it resulted in the downfall of the might empire that Mughals had meticulously built.
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Direct consequences on Aurangzeb’s reign
The first direct consequence was the revolts of Jats, the Satnamis, the Sikhs and a few others in the Budelkhand, the Doab, etc. the leader of the first Jat revolt, Gokul Jat was killed near Mathura and his next leader Raja Ram was also killed; however, the revolt could not be suppressed and after the death of Aurangzeb the Jats succeeded in setting up the independent state of Bharatpur. The Satnamis, who revolted in the districts of Narnaul and Mewat, were suppressed after a bitter fighting.
As Aurangzeb killed Sikh Guru Teg Bahadur in prison, his son the next Guru Govind Singh took up arms and organized Sikhs into a military sect and fought against Aurangzeb throughout his life. Due to this prolonged fight the Sikhs became a very powerful force in Punjab’s politics even during the lifetime of the Guru Govind Singh himself.
The Rajputs were also compelled to raise their swords against Aurangzeb once they came to the conclusion that Aurangzeb was determined to destroy and snatch away the independence of their states.
The fightings, battles, wars during Aurangzeb’s reign ruined the peace, prosperity, unity and military power of the entire Mughal Empire. It can be emphatically observed that Aurangzeb not only failed in obtaining his objectives but also ruined the Empire which his elders had so laboriously built. His bigotry made him so insensitive that he forgot the duties of an emperor; and most of all he lost the loyalty and belief of the Hindu community as a whole by reversing the policy of Akbar his grandfather and father had followed without raising an eyebrow.
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