AURAṄGZĪB, MUHĪ UD-DĪN MUHAMMAD 'ĀLAMGĪR (1618-1707), the last of the great Mughal emperors of India, ascended the throne of Delhi on 21 July 1658 after he had gained a decisive victory in the war of succession at Sāmūgaṛh, near Āgrā, on 29 May 1658. Auraṅgzīb's appointment in 1636 as viceroy of the Mughal provinces in the Deccan had first brought him into prominence. In 1645, he was transferred to Gujarāt. Between 1648 and 1652, he served as governor of Sindh and Multān. He was next entrusted with the task of recovering Qandahār, taken by the Persians in 1649. In 1653 he was appointed viceroy of the Deccan for the second time and for the next five years he was engaged in constant warfare with the independent states of Bījāpur and Golcoṇḍā.

         The first half of Auraṅgzīb's long reign was devoted to consolidating his power in northern India while the second half was spent in the fruitless attempt to conquer the Deccan. A pious man in his personal life, Auraṅgzīb was an orthodox Muslim. He had waded through a river of blood to reach the throne and had imprisoned his father and killed his own brothers. By his fanatical religious policy he wished to please the Muslim orthodoxy and win reprieve for the crimes he had committed to gain the crown. For the first ten years of his reign, he did not feel strong enough to take any drastic steps, but in 1669 he issued a rescript to all provincial governors "to destroy with a willing hand the schools and temples of the infidels and put an entire stop to their religious practices and teaching. " Among the many repressive edicts issued against the non-Muslims was one prohibiting all Hindus with the exception of Rājpūts from riding pālkīs, elephants or thorough-bred horses and from carrying arms. Most stringent was the imposition, in 1679, of jizyah, a tax the non-Muslims had to pay for permission to live in an Islamic State.

        The growing Sikh order had also to bear the brunt of Auraṅgzīb's policy of intolerance and religious persecution. The seventh Sikh Gurū, Har Rāi, was at Goindvāl when Dārā Shukoh, heir- apparent to the Mughal throne, entered the Punjab fleeing in front of the army of his brother, Auraṅgzīb, after his defeat in the battle of Sāmūgaṛh. At Goindvāl, where he arrived in the last week of June 1658, he called on Gurū Har Rāi, who, as the tradition goes, had once cured him of a serious illness with some rare herbs. Highly coloured stories about Dārā Shukoh's meeting with Gurū Har Rāi were carried to Auraṅgzīb by his officials who reported to him that Gurū Har Rāi was a rebel and that he had helped the fugitive prince and further that the Sikh Scripture contained verses derogatory to Islam. Auraṅgzīb summoned the Gurū to Delhi. As recorded in Santokh Siṅgh, Srī Gur Pratāp Sūraj Granth, Gurū Har Rāi wondered why he had been called to Delhi: "I rule over no territory. I owe the king no taxes, nor do I want anything from him. There is no connection of teacher and disciple between us, either. Of what avail will this meeting be ?" Gurū Har Rāi sent his elder son, Rām Rāi, to meet the emperor. Rām Rāi succeeded in winning the confidence of the Emperor, but overreached himself when, to please him, he deliberately misread one of the verses from the Gurū Granth Sāhib. Auraṅgzīb decided to keep Rām Rāi in Delhi in the belief that, with the future incumbent of the Gurūship in his power, he would become the arbiter of the destiny of the Sikh people. For garbling the sacred text, Gurū Har Rāi anathematized Rām Rāi and chose his second son, Har Krishan, as his successor. The investiture of Har Krishan did not please Auraṅgzīb who summoned the infant Gurū to Delhi, with the intention of arbitrating between his claims and those of his elder brother, Rām Rāi. Gurū Har Krishan arrived in Delhi and was put up at the house of Mirzā Rājā Jai Siṅgh of Amber. According to the Gurū kīān Sākhīāṅ, Gurū Har Krishan visited the Emperor's court on 25 March 1664, but owing to Auraṅgzīb's insistence that he show a miracle to prove his holiness he resolved never to see his face again. A few days later, Gurū Har Krishan was stricken with small-pox and he died on 30 March 1664.

        The responsibility of instructing the Sikh community and guiding its affairs now fell on Gurū Tegh Bahādur, Nānak IX. As recorded in Bhaṭṭ Vahī Talauḍā, a group of Kashmīrī paṇḍits waited on him at Anandpur on 25 May 1675 and complained how Iftikhār Khān, Auraṅgzīb's satrap in Kashmīr, had been making forcible conversions. Gurū Tegh Bahādur is said to have advised his visitors to go and tell the authority in Delhi that if he (Gurū Tegh Bahādur) was converted, they would all voluntarily accept Islam. Resolved to lay down his life to redeem freedom of belief, Gurū Tegh Bahādur set out for Delhi. Under the orders of the Emperor, he was taken into custody on 12 July 1675 at Malikpur Raṅghṛāṅ, near Sirhind, and despatched to Delhi. He was put in chains and on his refusal to renounce his faith was beheaded in public in the Chānḍnī Chowk of Delhi on 11 November 1675, after three of his devoted disciples - Bhāī Dayāl Dās, Bhāī Matī Dās and Bhāī Satī Dās - had been tortured to death before his eyes. His son, Gobind Rāi (later Gobind Siṅgh), now succeeded to the spiritual throne of Gurū Nānak. Auraṅgzīb was occupied with his campaigns in the South, but his feudal vassals, the hill chieftains, resented the Gurū's presence in their midst. They were especially averse to the way the four castes mingled in the Sikh order. They plotted in collusion with the local Mughal officers and led out armies against Gurū Gobind Siṅgh. After the battle of Nadauṇ, fought on 20 March 1691, in which the Mughal commander, AlifKhān was defeated, Auraṅgzīb ordered hisfaujdārsin the Punjab to restrain Gurū Gobind Siṅgh from holding assemblies of Sikhs and to demolish his hearth and home and banish him from the country if he departed ever so little from the ways of a faqīr and did not cease to have himself addressed as Sachchā Pādshāh, the True King. On 13 July 1696, he sent his eldest son, Mu'azzam, who later succeeded to the throne of Delhi as Emperor Bahādur Shāh, to settle affairs in the Punjab. Anandpur had been subject to constant raid and encroachment since 1700 but the fiercest onslaught made was in 1705 when the hill chiefs, aided by Mughal troops from Lahore and Sirhind, invested Gurū Gobind Siṅgh's citadel, eventually forcing him to evacuate it on 5-6 December 1705. Reaching Dīnā, a village in present-day Farīdkoṭ district of the Punjab, Gurū Gobind Siṅgh wrote to Auraṅgzīb a letter in Persian verse called Zafarnāmah, Epistle of Victory. It was a severe indictment of Auraṅgzīb, who was repeatedly upbraided for breach of faith in the attack made by his troops on the Sikhs after they had vacated Anandpur on solemn assurance of safe passage given them by him and his officers. The letter emphatically reiterated the sovereignty of morality in the affairs of State as much as in the conduct of individual human beings and regarded the means as important as the end. Absolute truthfulness was as much the duty of a sovereign as of any one of the ordinary citizens. Two of the Gurū's Sikhs, Dayā Siṅgh and Dharam Siṅgh, were sent to deliver the Zafarnāmah to Auraṅgzīb, who was then camping in Ahmadnagar. According toAhkām-i-'Ālamgīrī, the Emperor immediately sent through Muhammad Beg, agurzbardāror mace-bearer, and Shaikh Yār Muhammad, amansabdār, afarmānto Mun'im Khān, deputy governor of Lahore, asking him to make peace with Gurū Gobind Siṅgh. He also invited the Gurū for a personal meeting. The Gurū kīāṅ Sākhīāṅ confirms the invitation sent by Auraṅgzīb and mentions two gurzbardārs accompanying Bhāī Dayā Siṅgh and Bhāī Dharam Siṅgh back to the Punjab. But before the Gurū could see the Emperor, the latter died on 20 February 1707.


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Srī Rām Sharma