Aurangzeb was the third son of the previous emperor Shah Jahan. His eldest brother, Dara Shikoh, was favored for succession; Aurangzeb was third in line. He challenged the rule of his father and the succession. He was eventually victorious in the battles that occurred between him and his brothers. He killed his brothers, imprisoned his father in Agra Fort, and in July 1658, took the Peacock Throne.
Aurangzeb was a religious man. He became fascinated with conservative interpretations of the Qur'an, which he set about codifying. Based on these principles, he tried to discourage the Sufi orders that represented popular Indian Islam in favor of a less mystical, more didactic brand of Islam. According to Aurangzeb's interpretaion, Islam did not allow music, so he banished court musicians, dancers and singers.
Further, based on muslim precepts forbidding images, he stopped the production of representational artwork, including the Mughal miniature painting that had reached its zenith before his rule.
He also encouraged the destruction of sculptures and paintings in Hindu temples. In fact, unlike his more ecumenical predecessors, he dealt harshly with India's many non-muslims. He initiated the jizya, a tax on Hindus, which was unpopular. He tore down temples at important Hindu shrines such as Mathura, Ayodhya, and Varanasi, and built enormous mosques in their place, sometimes even using stones scavenged from the former temples. These mosques created unrest among the Hindus, and they remain sites of controversy and violence up to this day. He banned the practice of sati - the burning of widows proscribed by the Vedas - throughout the empire.
Aurangzeb's harsh treatment of Hindus led to uprisings in the western Deccan plateau, especially by the Marathi rebel Shivaji. So fierce were these conflicts around the Deccan that Aurangzeb eventually left the Mogul capital Delhi to take up residence in nearby Kirki, now known as Aurangabad, and he remained there until the end of his reign.
Unlike his predecessors, Aurangzeb left few buildings. He created a modest mausoleum for his first wife, sometimes called the mini-Taj, in Aurangabad. It is by comparison to his father's masterpiece a rather clumsy building, made with cheap material and heavy-handed decoration. He also built in Lahore what is thought to be the largest mosque outside Mecca. He also added a small marble mosque known as the Pearl Mosque to the Red Fort complex in Delhi.
Living a relatively simple life, Aurangzeb outlived many of his children. In his final years, his writings express regret about the shape of his life and sorrow at the failings of humanity, and especially his children.
He died in Ahmednagar in 1707 at the age of 90.
Aurangzeb was the only great Mughal whose tomb is not marked with a large mausoleum. In conformance with principles of Wahabism, his is an open-air grave in Kuldabad, near Aurangabad.
Throughout his life, Aurangzeb had knitted haj caps and copied out the Qu'ran. He sold these works in the marketplace anonymously. He used the proceeds, and only these, to fund his modest resting place.
After Aurangzeb's death, his son Bahadur Shah took over the throne. However the empire could not hold together from the strain of constant military campaigns, and the Mughal Empire entered a long decline.
(1627 - 1658)
(1707 - 1712)