» Aurangabad Diary »
A visit to Aurangabad last week has opened up a vista otherwise obscured by an absence of direct flights from Delhi. Among the profits of the visit has been a rediscovery of Aurangzeb, the sixth Mughal Emperor after whom the city is named. There are two sorts of history: one for the professional historian, the other for a lay person like myself. My image of Aurangzeb was shaped by Elliot and Dawson, who charged him with bigotry that destroyed the great legacy of tolerance propagated by Akbar. Aurangzeb, for the uninformed majority, was a villain. I was startled therefore by the respect with which he is held by the people of Aurangabad. In fact, even historians refer to him as Aurangzeb Rahmat ullah aleh (whom God keeps in his protection). My Elliot and Dawson images dwelt on his imposition of the Jizya on non-believers, the breaking of idols, suppression of the Sikh revolt by going to the length of having Guru Tegh Bahadur executed and the banning of music. But another reality is presented in Aurangabad. Don’t forget, Aurangzeb lived here for 35 years, occasioning a continuous reappraisal of a local phenomenon, remote from historians of our school days.