Aurangzeb's last will is quite revealing of his character. It was recorded by Maulvi Hamid-ud Din in chapter 8 of his hand-written Persian book on the life of Aurangzeb.
"There is no doubt that I have been the emperor of India and I have ruled over this country. But I am sorry to say that I have not been able to do a good deed in my lifetime. My inner soul is cursing me as a sinner. But I know it is of no avail. It is my wish that my last rites be performed by my dear son Azam. No one else should touch my body.
My servant, Aya Beg, has my purse in which I have carefully kept my earnings of Rupees four and two Annas. In my spare time, I have been writing the Qur'an and stitching caps. It was by selling the caps that I made an honest earning. My coffin should be purchased with this amount. No other money should be spent for covering the body of a sinner. This is my dying wish. By selling the copies of Qur'an I collected Rupees 305, which is also with Aya Beg. It is my will that poor Mohammedans should be fed with sweet rice procured with this money.
All my articles - clothes, ink stand, pens and books should be given to my son Azam. The labour charges for digging my grave will be paid by Prince Azam.
My grave should be dug in a dense forest. When I am buried, my face should remain uncovered. Do not bury my face in the earth. I want to present myself to Allah with a naked face. I am told, whoever goes to the supreme court on high with a naked face will have his sins forgiven.
My coffin should be made of thick 'Khaddar'. Do not place a costly shawl on the corpse. The route of my funeral should not be showered with flowers. No one should be permitted to place any flowers on my body. No music should be played or sung, I hate music.
No tomb should be built for me. Only a 'chabootra' or a platform may be erected.
I have not been able to pay the salaries of my soldiers and my personal servants for several months. I bequeath that after my death at least my personal servants be paid in full, even as the treasury is empty. Niamat Ali has served me very faithfully : he has cleaned my body and has never let my bed remain dirty.
No mausoleum should be raised in my memory. No stone with my name should be placed at my grave. There should be no trees planted near the grave. A sinner like me does not deserve the protection of a shady tree !
My son, Azam, has the authority to rule from the throne of Delhi. Kam Baksh should be entrusted with governance of Bijapur and Golconda states.
Allah should not make anyone an emperor. The most unfortunate person is he who becomes one. My sins should not be mentioned in any social gathering. The story of my life should not be told to anyone."
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.
Many modern Indians see Aurangzeb as a brutal oppressor of Hindus. He was a pious Muslim, and it is widely believed that he spent his long reign, nearly half a century, rampaging against Hindus and Hinduism. The popular story goes that Aurangzeb tried to convert all Hindus to Islam, and when that project failed he supposedly slaughtered millions of Hindus. People claim that Aurangzeb systematically destroyed Hindu cultural institutions, levelling thousands of Hindu temples. Some have even said that the reason why north India lacks the tall, elaborate temples that one finds in south India is that Aurangzeb smashed them all to pieces.
In 2015, a successful petition to rename Aurangzeb Road in Delhi summarised this despised ruler as 'one of the most tyrannical tormentor perpetrator of Intolerant Inhuman Barbaric crimes in India [sic]'.
However, these views of Aurangzeb owe more to myth than reality. Worse, the modern attacks on Aurangzeb are themselves rooted in dark motives.
Over the centuries, many groups have found Aurangzeb a convenient villain, for reasons more to do with their agendas than with Aurangzeb's reign. The British, for example, disseminated great calumnies against him, as well as against other premodern Indian Muslim kings, because a barbaric Aurangzeb made British colonial rule look civilised by comparison. The British fostered their portrayal of Aurangzeb as a cartoonish bigot with misleading scholarly work, including selective and sometimes blatantly wrong translations of Mughal histories designed to highlight Aurangzeb's alleged loathing for Hindus.
British colonialism ended in India 70 years ago, but their misrepresentations of the Mughals and other Indo-Muslim rulers have had a long and poisonous afterlife. In India, many still cite biased colonial-era British translations of Mughal texts as evidence of supposed Muslim wrongdoings. At least some of this reliance on questionable scholarship and translations is relatively innocent, but not all of it. Several notable groups in independent India have found maligning Aurangzeb to be useful for other, more sinister purposes, especially attempts to discredit modern Indian Muslims.
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