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Aurangzeb- Last Mughal’s Legacy, Complex Imperial Rule

Introduction: Aurangzeb, the sixth emperor of the Mughal Empire, ruled India from 1658 to 1707. He followed strict rules based on his Islamic beliefs, which some people liked while others didn’t. Also known as “Aurangzeb Alamgir,” his reign is a significant topic in the UPSC IAS exam, with many questions in Prelims and Mains Paper I. It’s crucial for UPSC History Optional and UGC NET History exams, with 5-7 yearly questions on political history.

Aurangzeb Administration

Aiming for effective governance, Mughal emperor Aurangzeb took measures to establish a competent administration by appointing capable and honest officials. His selection criteria prioritized skills over social status or connections, resulting in a more efficient government and a notable reduction in corruption.

  • Aurangzeb’s governance was characterized by a strong desire for centralized power. He asserted that the emperor should wield complete authority over the entire empire, leading to the dismissal of the prime minister as he assumed control over all administrative affairs.
  • Emphasizing adherence to Islamic law, Aurangzeb sought to enforce Islamic rules and values through stringent regulations governing societal behaviour and religious practices. To support this vision, he imposed strict laws, including a special tax on non-Muslims, prohibition of music and dance, and the destruction of Hindu temples.
  • A significant aspect of Aurangzeb’s administration was his focus on financial matters. To bolster the government’s coffers, he eliminated certain tax exemptions, reduced officials’ salaries, and implemented a systematic approach to land measurement for the equitable collection of taxes.
  • Despite the expansion of Aurangzeb’s empire, not everyone embraced his rule. His stringent regulations, especially those affecting non-Muslims and cultural expressions, fueled discontent among the populace, leading to rebellions against his authority.
  • Despite facing challenges and opposition, Aurangzeb managed to enlarge his empire, conquering various regions in the Deccan, southern India, and expanding the borders in other directions.

In summary, Aurangzeb governed the Mughal Empire with stringent policies, consolidating power and prioritizing tax collection. While he appointed competent officials, his regulations regarding non-Muslims and cultural activities posed challenges. Nevertheless, the Mughal Empire expanded under his rule.

Aurangzeb Economy

Under Aurangzeb’s reign, the Mughal Empire witnessed substantial transformations in its economic landscape. Let’s delve into the economic conditions prevailing during his era.

  • Aurangzeb’s economic focus was on strengthening agriculture and efficient tax collection to enhance the Mughal Empire’s financial stability.
  • He aimed to increase crop production, recognizing farming as a crucial component of the empire’s economy, and implemented changes in tax collection methods for improved efficiency.
  • The emperor encouraged the cultivation of cash crops like indigo and opium, leading to increased revenue through exports and a boost in trade during his rule.
  • Infrastructure improvements, such as enlarging the Grand Trunk Road, facilitated easier trade by connecting different parts of the empire and aiding merchants in transporting goods.
  • The textile industry flourished under Aurangzeb, with increased production of fine muslin and brocade contributing to economic growth and providing employment opportunities.
  • Aurangzeb maintained currency stability, promoting the use of silver rupees as the main monetary unit to ensure a robust monetary system.
  • Financial challenges arose due to substantial spending on military campaigns, straining the empire’s finances and impacting economic stability.
  • Regulatory measures affecting religious coexistence stirred discontent among some segments of the population, leading to negative repercussions on the economy.
  • Strict rules imposed on merchants and moneylenders hindered their business activities, limiting economic growth and expansion.
  • The empire faced famines during Aurangzeb’s rule, resulting in insufficient aid and widespread suffering due to food shortages.
    Centralized authority weakened as regional governors gained more power, contributing to a less stable trade and economic environment.

Aurangzeb Culture

Aurangzeb, the Mughal emperor reigning from 1658 to 1707, adhered to stringent Islamic principles and implemented cultural changes within the Mughal Empire.

  • Throughout his reign, Aurangzeb elevated the significance of Islamic traditions, actively promoting adherence to Islamic teachings by constructing mosques and endorsing Islamic education.
  • The period under Aurangzeb witnessed a flourishing of art and architecture, marked by a shift in Mughal building styles towards simpler designs, departing from the elaborate ones of the past. Mosques and tombs were constructed with a focus on simplicity.
  • However, some of Aurangzeb’s cultural directives sparked controversy. His disapproval of music and dance led to a decline in the arts and entertainment integral to Mughal culture, imposing restrictions on musicians and performers, and discouraging them from pursuing their craft.
  • Religious tolerance experienced a decline during Aurangzeb’s rule, particularly impacting non-Muslims, especially Hindus. Temples were demolished, and restrictions were imposed on Hindu religious practices, fostering tension between different religious communities.
  • Despite these restrictions, diverse cultures persisted and thrived. Regional traditions remained robust, and literature in Persian and Urdu languages flourished. Scholars and poets produced significant works, contributing to the Mughal Empire’s rich literary heritage.

Advances in science and technology were notable during this era, with Aurangzeb actively endorsing scholars and advocating for the translation of scientific texts. The Mughal Empire emerged as a hub for learning, attracting scholars from diverse fields.


Aurangzeb’s governance faced criticism for its cultural policies, yet it’s crucial to acknowledge that the impact was not solely negative. His administration blended conservative Islamic principles with the varied cultures within the empire. While Aurangzeb’s stringent beliefs shaped his policies, their effects on culture and religion were intricate. The Mughal Empire experienced significant cultural transformations during his rule. His rigorous Islamic measures curtailed religious tolerance and constrained artistic expression. Nonetheless, within the framework he established, cultural diversity and creativity continued to flourish. The debate surrounding the legacy of Aurangzeb’s rule underscores the dynamic nature of cultural shifts in a diverse society.

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How did Aurangzeb's policies impact religious tolerance?

Aurangzeb's policies led to a decline in religious tolerance and targeted non-Muslim communities.

What is the legacy of Aurangzeb's reign?

Aurangzeb's reign is controversial, with a mixed legacy of cultural transformation and religious tensions.

Did Aurangzeb support the arts?

While he promoted architecture, Aurangzeb imposed restrictions on music and dance.

How long did Aurangzeb rule over India?

Aurangzeb ruled India for 49 years, from 1658 to 1707.

What was Aurangzeb's approach to Islamic law?

Aurangzeb enforced a strict interpretation of Islamic law during his reign.

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