Book: Aurangzeb And The Decay Of The Mughal Empire Paperback – February 6, 2019
A highly entertaining book on the subject that is more relevant than ever in today’s world. No Mughal Emperor stirs more controversy than him. Although the Mughal dynasty breathed its last in 1857 it’s ending has been said to have started with the death of Aurangzeb in 1707. Like a great giant, the dynasty fell with him and then took another 150 years to perish completely.
It is hard to find a middle ground when discussing Aurangzeb. Remarkably, however, the author, in my opinion, has done so. The sources for the history of Aurangzeb’s reign are many, but Lane-Poole has based his book for the most part on the accounts of European travelers like Bernier, Tavernier, Fryer, Ovington, Caveri, etc. He also consults translated versions of Persian chroniclers like Khefi Khan And Abdul Hamid Lahori. In Aurangzeb’s case, you cannot amalgamate the facts to create an “impartial history” as the readers are usually Hindus, Muslims, and Europeans, all having very different backgrounds and historical palates; they just do not mix well. So the way out for an “impartial” historian, if there is such a species in the case to Aurangzeb is to chronicle all sides, which the author does competently.
Aurangzeb’s era and its aftermath was a watershed moment in Indian history. It divided the country along its religious and national fault lines, an opening which the British were quick to seize upon. It was a seismic event akin to the Reformation; the Indian subcontinent is still reeling from it. In fact, any efforts to mollify these tendencies by the immediate post-partition Indian governments are now unraveling.
Must read chapters:
Chapter II – The Fight For The Throne
Deals with his ascent to the coveted Delhi throne after a lot of fratricidal action, a huge departure from his personal pious and ascetic life. The reasons for this seeming conflict are dealt with by the author adequately.
Chapter X – Sivaji and the Maratha
Deals with the rise of a Martha highwayman from a minor nuisance to a major force that took the military strategy of the British to annihilate years after it had morphed into an empire.
Chapter XII – the ruin of Aurengzib
Deals with the effective end of the Mughal Empire.
The book was first published in 1896 but the prose is still a pleasure to read.
A highly recommended book for those who are interested in the history of the Indian subcontinent.
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