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Aurengzebe

Aurengzebe

 

 

AurengzebeAurengzebe, the famous Mogul Emperor of Hindostan, received the surname of Alum-Geer, "conqueror of the world." He was regarded by the mussulmans of India as one of the greatest of their monarchs. He was born in October, 1618, and was a younger son of Emperor Shah Jahan, who had three other sons,-Dara, Sujah, and Murad. Dara, the eldest, was the favorite of his father, who wished him to be his successor. Sujah held the government of Bengal; Murad commanded in Guzerat; and Aurengzebe commanded in the Deccan.

 

Aurengzlebe was a zealous and intolerant Mohammedan, who professed himself more ambitious of the character of a saint than of a prince . . Abstaining from pleasure, he devoted himself to business. During his father's reign Aurengzebe gained several victories in the Deccan, and acquired more military skill than either of his brothers. Each of them began to contemplate a struggle for the throne on the death of his father. In 1657 Shah Jahan was seized with a severe illness, and Dara acted as regent, or practically usurped imperial power. Sujah raised an army to enforce his own claim to the throne. The crafty Aurengzebe made insidious overtures to Murad, professing that he had no temporal ambition; that he preferred Murad to Dara or Sujah, and persuaded Murad to cooperate with him in a war against the other brothers. Their united armies marched towards the capital, Delhi. In the meantime, Shah Jaban recovered, and Dam resigned his power. Dara's son defeated Sujah in battle, after which Dara raised for his father a large army, comprising 100,000 horsemen. The army of Aurengzebe and Murad gained a decisive victory over Dara at Agra.

 

By the basest treachery Aureugzebe obtained possession of his father's person, and confined him in prison until his death. He also caused Murad to be arrested, while sleeping, and confined in prison. In 1658 Aurengzebe became Emperor of Hindostan; but Dara and Sujah still lived, and, commanding independent armies, defied his power. Aurengzebe defeated Sujah at Allahabad. Dara's army was intrenched near Ajmere in a position of great strength. The emperor, who could not provoke Dara to come out and fight, resorted to a stratagem. Dam was persuaded to open a gate of his camp to admit men who professed that they wished to desert from the camp of Anrengzebe. But the whole army of the enemy rushed in the gate and routed the army of Dara, who was put to death by order of the emperor. Sujah was defeated by the imperial army and fled to Arracan, where he was soon killed.

 

Aurengzebe was now in undisputed possession of the wealthy and powerful Mogul empire; but his government tended rather to waste than to increase its power. His persecution of the Hindoos, who were not Mohammedans, provoked the brave Mahrattas to revolt. He endeavored to enforce the precepts of his faith, and would not permit any disorder or licentiousness in his court. Bernier, a French traveler, resided many years in India as physician to the emperor, and afterwards wrote Memoirs of the Empire of the Great Mogul." His description shows a wealthy country sinking to ruin, rather than one flourishing under a good government. He was among the first to dispel the impression which prevailed in Europe of the mighty and unconquerable armies engaged in Mogul warfare. Even the numbers had been greatly exaggerated. The only efficient department was the cavalry of which the portion immediately attached to the monarch's residence did not exceed 40,000 nor could the whole under his command much exceed 200,000. The infantry, including the artillery stationed at the capital, might amount to 15,000. The innumerable hosts of foot soldiers said to compose the Mogul army consisted chiefly of servants, victuallers, foragers and others who followed in its train, conveying tents and supplying provisions, cattle, and everything wanted for the men and officers. This attendance was so numerous that when the imperial army marched, all Delhi and Agra might be described as proceeding along with it; and, indeed, these cities could be considered as little more than standing camps; while the camps, on the other hand, with their streets of tents and regular markets, might be viewed as moving cities. Bernier's account made a great impression on the people of Western Europe, and contemporary literature, French and English, is full of references to the wealth and magnificence of the Great Mogul.

 

Sevaji, the founder of the Mahratta empire in India, waged war against Aurengzebe about 1670 and defeated him. In 1686 Aurengzebe invaded the Deccan with a large army and conquered Bejapur and Golconda, which were annexed to his dominions. His bigotry impelled him to violent measures for the extirpation of the Brahman religion, professed by a large majority of his subjects. He razed to the ground the splendid temples of Benares and Muttra, and erected mosques on their sites. These and other outrages caused him to be detested by the majority of the Hindoos.

 

Aurengzebe continued many years to occupy the throne of the Mogul dominion, which, under him, attained to its greatest extent and its highest glory. After he had added to it the kingdoms of the Deccan, it included nearly the whole peninsula of India, with the neighboring regions of Cabul and Assam. The population and wealth probably exceeded those of the Roman empire during its most flourishing period. The revenues amounted to $160,000,000, which was then probably unexampled in the world. His internal administration seems to have been decidedly superior to that of his immediate predecessors. Amid the somewhat ostentatious display and matchless splendor of his court his personal conduct remained pure. Early in the morning he was seated in the hall of justice, accessible to the meanest of his subjects, administering the law with the strictest impartiality, redressing their wrongs, and even relieving their suffering by his bounty.

 

In his old age his filial impiety returned to plague his spirit. He was troubled by the disposition which his own sons showed to imitate their father by rebellion against him. Mohammed, his eldest son, had died in prison, after he had been openly disloyal. Akbar, another son, joined the hostile standard of the Mahrattas. Shah Alum, his second son, had not openly rebelled, but he did not enjoy the confidence of his father. Aurengzebe died in February, 1707, in the forty-ninth year of his reign, and was succeeded by Shah Alum.

 

Were we to place implicit reliance in the Mohammedan historians, we should imagine the reign of Aurengzebe to have been for India a golden age, ail era of felicity almost unparalleled in the history of mankind. But in the provinces and remote districts the people had no adequate protection from the rapacity of the governors, who ruled with arbitrary power, and were" men fit for ruining a world.

 

THE RIVAL BROTHERS.

 

Aurengzebe was seated on the throne of India, but his position could not be considered secure while his brothers Dara and Sujah lived and were at the head of powerful armies. The former, from his brilliant qualities, and his designation to the empire by Shah Jehan, inspired the greatest apprehension i and against him the first efforts of the m!w sovereign were directed. Having withdrawn into Lahore, Dara had collected an army more numerous than that of his adversary, but composed chiefly of new levies, whom he was afraid to bring into the field against his brother's veteran forces. He therefore retreated beyond the Indus; but retreat in these circumstances, and with such troops, was not less disastrous than actual defeat. His force gradually melted away, and he arrived at Tatta with only a small band of faithful adherents.

 

It would now have been the policy of Aurengzebe to pursue Dara without intermission till he had completed his destruction but he was necessarily checked by the intelligence that his brother Sujah with a large force was advancing from Bengal. He found this rival very strongly posted near Allahabad but, trusting to the valor and hardihood of his own troops, he resolved to attack him. Early in the day, however, the Rajpoot bands, who had accompanied him only through compulsion, Red from the field, and even began to assail his rear so that the Mogul troops, left alone, were soon very hard pressed. The elephant on which Aurengzebe rode received a severe shock, and fell on its knees whereupon the emperor drew one foot out of the stirrup, preparing to alight; but as in an Indian battle the presence of the monarch on his war-elephant is the rallying point round which the army fights, Jumla, the vizier, called out, You are descending from your throne." The prince felt the truth and importance of the advice, resumed his seat, and even caused the feet of the animal to be chained to the spot. Thus, cased indeed in strong armor, he remained exposed to the darts and arrows of the enemy. His men, encouraged by the gallant example of their chief, rallied, and, making the most desperate efforts, caused their opponents to give way. Sujah, finding his elephant disabled, committed the error which his rival had avoided, and mounted a horse. The view of the royal elephant moving into the rear without a rider spread general dismay, which ended in a total rout; and the prince found present safety only by throwing himself into the strong fortress of Monghir.

 

Aurengzebe was again obliged to allow some respite to a vanquished adversary; for Dara, after reaching Tatta, recrossed the Indus, and proceeded through the Great Desert into the province of Guzerat. There he prevailed upon the governor, whose daughter had been married to Murad, to espouse his cause; and having raised a considerable army, he advanced into Rajpootana, and in the neighborhood of Ajmere, its capital, intrenched himself in a position of extraordinary strength. Aurengzebe, on hastening thither, saw with dismay the commanding ground on which his brother had encamped. He endeavored, by presenting his army in order of battle, and even by studied insults, to provoke the proud Dara to come forth and fight; but the prince had the prudence to decline these challenges. The emperor, however, always fertile in stratagem, devised a new scheme. Having in his Camp the two chiefs who had been mainly instrumental in gaining over the army of Dara's son, Soliman, he caused them to write a letter to the former, assuring him that they had been induced only by imperious circumstances to forsake his cause, Which they were anxious again to embrace and that if he would leave open a certain gate at a particular hour, they, with all their followers, would enter, and place themselves under his command.

 

In vain did the oldest and most prudent counselors warm Dara of the danger to which this step would expose him, and of the wiles of Aurengzebe. Rash, credulous, and inaccessible to advice, he allowed himself to be dazzled by the prospect of an accession to h is force which would have given him a complete superiority. The gate was opened at the appointed time, the chiefs rushed in, and were soon followed by the whole imperial army. Dara, too late undeceived, at. tempted still a gallant though vain resistance, being totally routed, and obliged to fly with a very small remnant of his troops. He bent his way to the capital of Guzerat, hoping there to find an asylum; but the governor refused him admittance. A band of Mahrattas, his sole remaining troops, seeing his fortunes lost, took the opportunity to plunder the camp, leaving nothing except what was concealed in the tents of the women.

 

The luckless Dara was then compelled to undertake without any preparation a march across the desert, in a plight still more miserable than that in which the same disastrous journey had been performed by his ancestor Humaioon. Amid the horrors of fatigue and thirst, beneath a burning sun, a number of his faithful followers successively lay down and expired. At the head of a few survivors he reached Tatta and might thence have pushed on into Persia where he would probably have been well received; but at this crisis Nadira Bana, his favorite wife was at the point of death, and he could not endure the thought of leaving this beloved object to expire amid strangers. He sought the hospitality of Jihon Khan, a neighboring ruler; but this was another of his rash acts. Jihon was a violent and bloody chief, who, after being twice condemned to death by Shah Jehan, had been pardoned at the prince's intercession. Dara had indeed the melancholy satisfaction of paying the last duties to his sultana; but on attempting to depart, found himself surrounded by a body of troops who delivered him to Khan Jehan, the imperial general, then in close pursuit of him. The prince, when he saw his fate inevitable, assumed a demeanor of majestic fortitude, and maintained during the whole journey a calm dignity, soothing bis grief by verses composed by himself on his own eventful history. He was led through Delhi miserably equipped and almost in rags. But Aurengzebe had miscalculated the effect of this exhibition. The multitude, when they beheld their once noble and gallant ruler led to death under circumstances so fearfully changed, and beside him his son, a spirited and graceful boy, over whom so dark a fate impended, were seized with the deepest sympathy, and melted into tears, mingled with curses against the tyrant. Jihon, the betrayer, was killed on his way home, while Delhi seemed on the eve of insurrection. The emperor felt that he must hasten to close the tragedy. A band of assassins was introduced in the night, beneath whose blows the unfortunate prince fell, after a desperate resistance and, through the address of the monarch, the commotion in the capital quickly subsided.

 

Aurengzebe had now only to dispose of Sujah, who, under favor of t.his diversion, had rallied his broken forces. But as little apprehension was felt in that quarter, it was thought enough to detach against him Prince Mohammed and Jumla the vizier. This expedition, however, received a striking interest from a very unexpected and moving incident. Mohammed had been early betrothed to a daughter of Sujah, for whom he had conceived a strong attachment and though in the late tumult of events he had forgotten this youthful impression, a letter which the princess in concert with her father now wrote to him led to a revival of all his tenderness. He determined to quit the army, and espouse the cause of his uncle. It docs not seem improbable that he cherished some secret intention of imitating the example of Aurengzebe himself, by fighting his way to the empire. Being highly elated with the part he performed in the late revolution, and the offer made to him by his grandfather, he had often been heard to boast that it was he who placed the crown on his father's head. He fondly flattered himself that the army would follow his example, which, when combined with that of Sujah, would compose a force so overwhelming as to defy all resistance. He embarked on the Ganges, as if upon a party of pleasure, and returned not. The troops, on discovering his intention, were at first greatly agitated; but the prudence and vigor of Jumla preserved their attachment to Aurengzebe, and prevented any desertion. Sujah received his illustrious relative with the highest distinction, and, the nuptials having been celebrated with great pomp, he led out his army, and offered battle. Mohammed placed himself in the foremost line, and when he saw the flower of the opposing cavalry bear down upon him, vainly imagined that they came to join his standard. But their fierce onset soon undeceived him. Both he and Sujah behaved with the greatest valor, though the effeminate troops of Beugal could not withstand the veteran forces led by Jumla, who gained a complete victory.

 

Mohammed's situation was now distressing, and the arts of his father rendered it desperate. Aurengzebe wrote a letter, addressed to him as if in answer to one from himself, treating of a plan for deserting the cause of his father-in-law. It was so arranged that this letter fell into the hands of Sujah who thereupon conceived suspicions which the most solemn protestations of Mohammed could not remove. No violence was indeed offered to him, but he was informed that he and his wife must depart from Bengal. All India being now under the sway of the relentless Aurengzebe, the prince had no resource but to throw himself upon the mercy of one who never trusted those that had once deceived him. Mohammed was immediately arrested, and sent to the strong fortress of Gwalior, where he pined away the remainder of his life, which terminated in seven years. Sujah fled into Arracan, where, betrayed by the rajah, he and all his family perished. Soliman, the son of Dara, was taken prisoner among the Himalaya mountains, where he had sought refuge and thus Aurengzebe was left without a rival.-H. MURRAY.

 

Aurengzebe

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