The Mughal Influence on Vaisnavism, Part 61


Shah Jahan on Globe
Mughal, mid 17th c.

Oct 06, 2010 — CANADA (SUN) — A serial presentation of the Mughal effect on Vaisnava society.

Over the course of the last four segments in this series, we have been discussing the Mughal emperor Jahangir, who took the throne after the death of his father, Akbar, in 1605 A.D. Jahangir ruled for twenty-three years, and his court's history is punctuated with the effects of the emperor's struggle with intoxication.

During his reign as emperor, Jahangir took refuge in Kashmir on numerous occasions, seeking rest from political upheaval, and refuge in which he might restore his poor health and recover from addiction. These personal efforts met with little success, and the debilitating effects of alcohol, primarily, eventually took his life. He died while traveling back from Kashmir, having gone there from Kabul.

The cold northern weather hastened Jahangir's departure from Kashmir, as he headed back to the Agra region. His travels were slowed due to severe respiratory illness, however, and he made it no further than Lahore, where he died in 1627. It is said that the emperor's final words were, "Kashmir, only Kashmir".

Jahangir was succeeded by his third son, Prince Khurram, who took the title of Shah Jahan. Various events in the relationship of father and son are documented in Jahangir's biographical journals, published as the Tuzk-e-Jahangiri, or Jahangir-nama.

As described in a previous segment, Shah Jahan's career began early. As Prince Khurram, at age 32, he was actively working for his father, wreaking havoc with the wholesale destruction of Hindu villages, temples, crops and orchards in Mewar.

Like his father Jahangir, Shah Jahan's period of rule was cut short by illness. Although he didn't die until 1666 A.D. 38 years after taking the throne he was forced to relinquish control to his son Dara in 1658. Prince Dara's rule was cut very short by his aggressive brother, Aurangzeb, who quickly stole power, and kept it for nearly 50 years.

Over the 30-year course of his reign, Shah Jahan's greatest fame came from the structures he built, rather than those he razed to the ground. Even so, his biggest monument, the Taj Mahal, is said to have been the primary cause of some two million Indians starving to death, as the emperor emptied the royal treasuries to buy building materials and jewels for his famous "Peacock Throne".

There is much intrigue about the true history behind the Taj Mahal, which we'll cover in a little more detail later on. Some reports suggest that the monument to the emperor's deceased wife, Mumtaz, was constructed overtop an ancient Shiva temple. Others described the many Vaisnava temples that were torn down, so the marble and ornamentation could be carted to the Taj site, for use in that building. It seems likely that both may be true.

The record seems clear that a great many Hindu temples under construction at the time Shah Jahan took the throne were destroyed. 76 temples were destroyed in Benares, and many elsewhere, as well as Christian churches in Agra and Lahore.

While Akbar is often described as the most benevolent Mughal ruler, and Aurangzeb as the greatest demon, as we have tried to demonstrate in this series, all five of the great Mughal rulers in this period were demoniac. All were hell-bent on destroying Vaisnava temples, the deities who resided in them, and the Hindu citizenry who worshipped them. In this, Shah Jahan was no different than his father and grand-fathers, or the sons who succeeded him.

Clockwise: Humayun (top left), Babar, Akbar, and Jahangir


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