The Mughal Influence on Vaisnavism, Part 67

BY: SUN STAFF

Overlooking Aurangabad, from the Ruins of Aurungzeb's Palace
Robert Melville Grindlay, c. 1813


Nov 22, 2010 — CANADA (SUN) — A serial presentation of the Mughal effect on Vaisnava society.

Today we begin the last three-part segment in this series on the Mughal influence on Vaisnava India. Previously, we gave a number of historical references which confirmed the breadth of destruction Emperor Aurangzeb wrought upon India's temples, Deities and citizens. Today we look at some of the events that marked the slow unwinding of Aurangzeb's reign, whose ending inaugurated the Later Mughal Period and the eventual collapse of a once powerful invading force.

The decline of central power in the Mughal Empire is typically dated from the time of Aurangzeb's death in 1707, although it was not until after the death of Shah ‘Alam in 1712 that the Empire's disintegration was most dramatically obvious. There were numerous palace revolutions, and various independent provincial dynasties emerging in places like Hyderabad and Lucknow. Bengal broke free under the governorship of Murshid Quli Khan (1713–27).

In the Cambridge History of India, we read:

    "In the height of political unwisdom, Aurangzeb wantonly provoked rebellion among the loyal Rajputs, while the frontier Afghans were still far from being subdued. With the two leading Rajput clans openly hostile to him, his army lost its finest and most loyal native recruits. The trouble spread by contagion from the Rathors and Sisodias to the Hara and Gaur clans, and the lawlessness here set moving overflowed into Malwa and heartened every opponent of the imperial government throughout India."


The tomb of Auranzeb. (He desired in his will that not more than
8 rupees was to be spent on his tomb.)
William Carpenter, c.1855


Once Rajput loyalties were broken, the Pashtun tribesmen of northwestern Pakistan and southeastern Afghanistan became the bedrock of the Mughal Empire military. They defended the Empire from a crucial vantage point in India's northwest, where invaders regularly tried to gain access to the Indian subcontinent. The Pashtun also helped to defend the Mughals from local Sikh and Maratha forces that were constantly in rebellion against the Islamics.

The Pashtun Revolt of 1672 took place under the leadership of the warrior poet, Khushal Khan Khattak. Soldiers under orders of the Mughal Governor Amir Khan apparently molested the women of the Safi tribe, in modern day Kunar. The Safi tribes attacked the soldiers, and the great rebellion was sparked. Reprisal attacks were triggered amongst numerous other tribes, who had long waited to dislodge the Muslim invaders in their region.

Amir Khan led a large Mughal Army into the Khyber Pass, where his troops were surrounded by tribesmen who overpowered them, with only the governor and four men escaping.

From that flashpoint, the rebellion spread, and the Mughal rule almost totally collapsed along the Pashtun belt. The critical Attock-Kabul trade route along the Grand Trunk was blocked, making it extremely difficult for the Mughals to provision their men in the area. Aurangzeb himself eventually had to come, and he camped at Attock while personally taking charge of the situation.

Continuing to fight, Aurangzeb also employed diplomacy and bribery to quell the rebellion, but this was only partially effective. Although the main route to Delhi was kept open under Mughal control, they never again took back control of the tribal areas adjacent to the trade route.


The Khyber Pass



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