Aurangzeb was the greatest king among the Mughals and ruled over the largest territory of any ruler in Indian history. His empire extended from Kabul in present Afghanistan to areas in South India bordering Madurai in present Tamil Nadu State. He was a kind-hearted man and led a simple life. He was a just ruler and forgave his enemies. He abolished all non-Islamic practices at his court; abolished Ilahi calendar introduced by Akbar and reinstated Islamic lunar calendar. He enforced laws against gambling and drinking. He abolished taxes on commodities and inland transport duties. He forbade the practice of Emperor being weighed in gold and silver on birthdays. Aurangzeb did not draw salary from state treasury but earned his own living by selling caps he sewed and selling copies of the Quran he copied by hand.

Birth and Education

Mohyuddin Muhammad Aurangzeb was born on October 24, 1618 CE at Dohad in the Bombay Presidency. He was the third son of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal. Aurangzeb was nine years old when his father became Emperor of India. From that time on, his regular education began. He got good education in religion as well as the ordinary education of that time. He memorized the whole Quran and was taught to write in a beautiful handwriting. He also developed a taste for poetry and could make verses. He also learned the Arabic language.

Military Training

His military training began by age 16. When Aurangzeb was seventeen, he was made the Viceroy of Deccan. Aurangzeb worked well as the Viceroy of Deccan. This didn't still bring peace to his mind. He wanted a purpose of life. After some thought, he turned to the Quran as a light for his life.

Life as a Faqir

In May 1644 CE, he gave up his duties as the Viceroy of Deccan and left to live in the wild region of Western Ghats. Here he lived for several months as a Faqir (poor, simple man). He took up a life of prayer and self-disciplined life.

Anger of his Father

This action of Aurangzeb brought great anger to his father, the Emperor. He was so shocked that his son became a Faqir that he stopped all his allowances and took his estates. This didn't bother Aurangzeb at first. After some thought though, Aurangzeb decided to go back to his family. For some months, Aurangzeb lived in Agra with disgrace. His mother and sisters felt sorry for him but the Emperors displeasure was hard to go.

Regaining his Rank

In November 1644 CE, his sister, Jahan Ara, who was the eldest and best-loved daughter of the Emperor, got a terrible burn and when she recovered, the Emperor, who was so happy, could not refuse her anything. At her request, Aurangzeb was raised back to his rank. The prince was again the Viceroy of Deccan.

End of Lawlessness in Gujrat

In February 1645 CE, Aurangzeb was made the Viceroy of Gujrat. For years, this province had been causing trouble for the Emperor. With a strong hand, Aurangzeb put an end to this lawlessness. The Emperor was pleased with his son and rewarded him well. Aurangzeb was put to the rank of a Mansabdar of 15,000 foot soldiers and 10,000 horses.

Division of Land by Emperor

The aged Emperor knew that his sons would fight for power after he died. This was the Mughal custom. Therefore, taking precaution, he divided his empire into four regions for each of them to rule. They all had their own government, army, etc. Dara was given governorship of Multan and Kabul in the extreme northwest. Shuja, the second son got Bengal the eastern most province. Aurangzeb was in Deccan in extreme south and Murad, the last son, had Gujerat in the west.

Arguments over Rule

In early September 1657 CE, Shah Jahan fell ill. For a whole week, he was at the state of death. The report spread that the emperor was dead. Dara began acting as if he was emperor. Meanwhile, Shuja, who said that the Emperor had been poisoned by Dara, claimed himself emperor. Murad too, crowned himself Emperor and also struck coins with his name. Both, Shuja and Murad wrote letters to Aurangzeb for support against Dara. Aurangzeb strongly advised them not to start a civil war because their father was still alive and improving in health.

Aurangzeb's Rule

After much fighting, the administration of the empire passed into the hands of Aurangzeb. The rest of his life was a struggle for Islam. He looked upon power as a mean to reform an corrupt society. The pious Emperor did much to improve the life of common people. He abolished all illegal taxes, etc. His measures brought relief to common men. He didn't seem to care about his own comfort. His reign was an era of happiness and peace through the empire. He never committed the slightest injustice during his reign. He was overall the best Mughal emperor in its history.

Further Reading:

Heroes of Islam: Mohy-ud-Din Alamgir Aurangzeb

Great Muslims: Aurangzeb Alamgir