‘Aurangzeb was even-handed with Hindus, Muslims’March 19th, 2008 - 9:25 am ICT by admin
By Papri Sri Raman
Chennai, March 19 (IANS) The debate over whether Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb was anti-Hindu or not has taken a new turn here with the largest Tamil Muslim group saying he was a victim of distorted history. Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam (TMMK) said one of the biggest charges against Aurangzeb was that he demolished the Vishwanath temple in Varanasi (Kashi).
“That was a fact. But late historian Bishma Narain Pande’s research efforts exploded many myths about Aurangzeb’s rule. He explained why Aurangzeb razed the temple at Varanasi,” TMMK leader M.H. Jawahirulla, who is a university professor himelf, told IANS.
He razed the temple because the Maharani of Kutch, the wife of one of the Hindu Rajput kings loyal to Aurangzeb, was dishonoured and robbed inside the temple.
Incidentally, the Chennai police March 6 shut down an art show on Aurangzeb at the Lalit Kala Akademi in Chennai following protests. Francois Gautier, a expatriate French journalist, curated the show. Police said the exhibition of 40 paintings and documents on Aurangzeb had the potential to disrupt communal harmony.
Gautier’s exhibition did not have a single exhibit to show that during Aurangzeb’s long reign of 50 years, many Hindus, notably Jaswant Singh, Jay Singh, Raja Rajrup, Kabir Singh, Arghanath Singh, Prem Dev Singh, Dilip Roy and many others, held very high administrative positions, the TMMK leader said.
According to TMMK, historian Pande’s studies on Aurangzeb also “offer an excellent example of what history has to teach us if only we study it dispassionately,” Jawahirulla told IANS.
“The issue is not whether Aurangzeb was good or bad, a hero or not - history tells us he was even-handed with justice to Hindus and Muslims.”
Jawahirulla quotes from Pande’s 1987 work “Islam and Indian Culture”: “While Aurangzeb was passing Varanasi on his way to Bengal, the Hindu rajas in his retinue requested that they halt for a day so that their queens may go to the holy city, bathe in the Ganges and pray at the famous Shiva temple.
“Aurangzeb readily agreed. Army pickets were posted on the five-mile route to Varanasi. The queens made their journey in ‘palkis’ (palanquins). They took bath in the Ganges and went to the temple. After offering ‘puja’ (worship), all the queens returned, except one, the Maharani of Kutch.”
“A thorough search was made of the temple precincts but the Rani was not to be found. When Aurangzeb came to know of this, he was enraged. He sent his senior officers to search for the rani. Ultimately, they found that a statue of Ganesh, fixed on the wall, was moveable.
“When the statue was moved, they saw a flight of stairs that led to the basement. To their horror, they found the missing ‘rani’, dishonoured and crying, deprived of all her ornaments. The basement was just beneath Lord Vishwanath’s seat,” Pande wrote.
“The rajas demanded action and Aurangzeb ordered that as the sacred precincts had been despoiled, Lord Vishwanath may be moved to some other place, the temple be razed to the ground and the mahant (head priest) be arrested and punished.”
Once Pande had to deal with a land dispute between two temple priests, Jawahirullah recalls.
“One of them had filed in evidence some ‘firmans’ (royal orders) to prove that Aurangzeb had, besides cash, gifted the land in question for the maintenance of his temple.”
“They might be fake, Pande thought in view of Aurangzeb’s fanatically anti-Hindu image?”
“Pande showed them to his friend, Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, a distinguished lawyer as well a great scholar of Arabic and Persian. He was also a Brahmin.”
“Sapru examined the documents and declared they were genuine ‘firmans’ (edicts) issued by Aurangzeb. For Pande, this was a ‘new image of Aurangzeb’”.
“So, he wrote to the chief priests of the various important temples all over India, requesting photocopies of any firman issued by Aurangzeb that they may have in their possession.”
“The response was overwhelming; he got firmans from several principal Hindu and Jain temples, even from Sikh Gurudwaras in northern India,” Jawahirullah said.
“These ‘firmans’, issued between 1659 and 1685, related to the grant of ‘jagir’ (large parcel of agricultural lands) to support regular maintenance of these places of worship.”
“A galaxy of Hindu historians has strongly refuted the popular version of Mughal history as depicted in 20th century India,” the TMMK leader said. Among them was Babu Nagendranath Banerjee.
A stone inscription at the Balaji or Vishnu Temple, located north of Chitrakut, Balaghat, still shows that the emperor himself commissioned it, the TMMK leader said.